Gender quota legislation has no spillover effect on hiring of female CEOs


  • Asta Dis Oladottir University of Iceland
  • Thora H. Christiansen



Iceland is a global leader in gender equality. Nevertheless, women face apparent exclusion from senior executive positions, and men hold 19 out of 20 CEO positions at listed companies. This study sheds light on the hiring process for CEOs of listed companies and on why the increased number of female board members has not led to an increased number of female CEOs. The research question is as follows: How do women on boards of listed companies experience the CEO hiring process with regard to equality of opportunity for male and female candidates? The study reports findings from interviews with 22 women who collectively sit on the boards of all of the listed companies in Iceland. Findings reveal a deep dissatisfaction with the prevailing CEO hiring practices, which they experience as a fast-paced and closed process, heavily reliant on board members’ networks and headhunters’ lists. The interviewees find that the outcomes exclude women, and they are conflicted about their own participation in the process. They voice the need for inclusion and call for disruptive tactics, more courage and gender quotas at the executive level. The main contribution of this research is that for the first time, female board members of all listed companies in one country have been interviewed to shed light on their experiences of the hiring process for senior management positions.