n this article, we use a sample of Norwegian quoted companies in the period of 2001–2010 to explore whether the gender quota requiring 40 % female directors on corporate boards changes the likelihood of women being appointed to top leadership roles as board chairs or corporate CEOs. Our empirical results indicate that the gender quota and the resulting increased representation of female directors provide a fertile ground for women to take top leadership positions. The presence of female board chairs is positively associated with female directors’ independence status, age and qualification, whilst the presence of female CEOs is positively related to the average qualification of female directors. Firms with older and better educated female directors are more likely to appoint female board chairs. The likelihood of female CEOs’ appointment increases with the percentage of independent directors and directors’ qualifications, especially those for female directors. Furthermore, the gender gaps with respect to qualification, board interlocks and nationality between female and male board chairs vanishes after Norwegian companies’ full compliance to the quota in January 2008. However, the gender quota has no significant impact on the gender gaps between female and male directors after its full compliance. Our article thereby contributes to understanding how gender quotas, presence of female directors, percentage of female directors on boards and other board characteristics can determine the gender of top leaders of organizations.
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