Leadership selection: can changing the default break the glass ceiling?

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Leadership selection often requires candidates to actively choose to express their interest. Using a series of incentivized experiments with more than 1000 participants, we compare such an Opt-in mechanism with an Opt-out mechanism where everyone qualified for the position is in the candidate pool by default, but individuals can choose to opt out of the selection process. The results reveal a gender gap in participation decisions under the Opt-in mechanism. The gender gap exists even when individuals know they are the top performers, suggesting helping women improve their performance may not necessarily reduce gender gaps. Importantly, women are more likely to participate under the Opt-out mechanism and gender gaps in leadership selection are reduced.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101563
Number of pages14
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • Defaults
  • Gender inequality
  • Glass ceiling
  • Laboratory experiments
  • Leadership selection

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