Significant efforts have been devoted so far to investigating the contribution of top management teams (TMTs) to firm performance (Hambrick and Mason, 1984; Hambrick, 2007). In this vein, the upper echelon research tradition consistently focused on characteristics and composition of top executives’ circles, with emphasis on team diversity (Finkelstein et al., 2009). Diversity has been studied from different perspectives, with an increasing attention to the gender perspective and the specific contribution of women in TMTs (Kilduff et al., 2000; Klenke, 2003; Helfat et al., 2006). The reason behind this interest is that women are acknowledged to be naturally gifted with peculiar leadership and managerial skills (Bird and Brush, 2002; Van der Valt and Ingley, 2003; Krishnan and Park, 2005). The contribution of women in upper echelons has been conceptualized under various theoretical frameworks and empirically tested; evidence of positive relations between women in top positions and firm performance has created large consensus on the importance of increasing gender diversity in TMTs (Catalyst, 2004; Krishnan and Park, 2005; Joy et al., 2007). In fact, despite the evidence on positive effects of women executives, the ‘glass ceiling’ – that is, the apparently invisible barrier that keeps women far away from top positions – is still there. Further, although female presence in upper echelons is growing, it remains significantly scarce, especially in positions of CEOs and seconds-in-command (Daily et al., 1999; Krishnan and Park, 2005).
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