Research / BFI Working PaperApr 09, 2024

The Glass Web: Kinship Networks, Female Executives, and Firm Outcomes in the Middle East

Alessandra González, Nicolas Wesseler

Leveraging data on firms operating in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and a novel measure of family ties among firm executives, we show the quantitative importance of kinship ties for female executives in settings and industries characterized by low female representation. Our findings suggest that kinship ties bring women into executive networks, what we call ‘the glass web’, that make up the proverbial glass ceiling which has traditionally kept women out of business leadership. We combine our executive-level data with administrative employer-employee matched data for Saudi Arabia to show that greater representation of women among firm executives, with or without a kinship tie, is associated with more gender-equal outcomes at the firm, including greater female employee share and smaller gender wage gaps.

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