Too much media attention for a new CEO appointment can make investors skittish—but only when the CEO is a woman, according to new research.
Companies that appoint female leaders are better off if they avoid announcing those CEO appointments with anything approaching “pomp and circumstance,” as investors may react negatively, says Kellogg School’s Ned Smith, one of the researchers.
Smith doesn’t believe the investors’ unfavorable reaction is due to bias against women in leadership positions but rather the assumption that other investors will be biased.
The media attention triggers “second-order sense making,” where investors interpret not only the meaning of the executive appointment but also the meaning of the increased attention surrounding it. However, when a female CEO appointment does not get much attention, these same investors are more likely to respond based on their own beliefs.
Among the findings:
- Companies that received a lot of media attention for appointing female CEOs were more likely to experience negative market reactions.
- Male CEO appointments that received similarly large amounts of media attention were more likely to result in positive market reactions.
- When it comes to small amounts of media attention, companies that announced female CEO appointments were more likely to experience positive market reactions than companies appointing male CEOs, where the reaction was more neutral.
- There were no major differences in the tone or sentiment of media coverage associated with male vs. female CEO appointments.
For more information, see “Appointing a Female CEO? Beware of Media Attention.”