Inside Opportunity

Kevin Lewis

March 18, 2021

Do Activist Hedge Funds Target Female CEOs? The Role of CEO Gender in Hedge Fund Activism
Bill Francis et al.
Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming


Using a comprehensive US hedge fund activism dataset from 2003 to 2018, we find that activist hedge funds are about 52% more likely to target firms with female CEOs compared to firms with male CEOs. We find that firm fundamentals, the existence of a “glass cliff,” gender discrimination bias, and hedge fund activists’ inherent characteristics do not explain the observed gender effect. We also find that the transformational leadership style of female CEOs is a plausible explanation for this gender effect: instead of being self-defensive, female CEOs are more likely to communicate and cooperate with hedge fund activists to achieve intervention goals. Finally, we find that female-led targets experience greater increases in market and operational performance subsequent to hedge fund targeting.

How Does Minority Political Representation Affect School District Administration and Student Outcomes?
Vladimir Kogan, Stéphane Lavertu & Zachary Peskowitz
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming


We employ a regression discontinuity design leveraging close school board elections to investigate how the racial and ethnic composition of California school boards affects school district administration and student achievement. We find some evidence that increases in minority representation lead to cumulative achievement gains of approximately 0.1 standard deviations among minority students by the sixth post‐election year. These gains do not come at the expense of white students' academic performance, which also appears to improve. Turning to the policy mechanisms that may explain these effects, we find that an increase in minority representation leads to greater capital funding and a larger proportion of district principals who are non‐white. We find no significant effects of minority representation on school segregation, the reclassification of English language learners, or teacher staffing.

Gender and the Dynamics of Economics Seminars
Pascaline Dupas et al.
NBER Working Paper, February 2021


This paper reports the results of the first systematic attempt at quantitatively measuring the seminar culture within economics and testing whether it is gender neutral. We collected data on every interaction between presenters and their audience in hundreds of research seminars and job market talks across most leading economics departments, as well as during summer conferences. We find that women presenters are treated differently than their male counterparts. Women are asked more questions during a seminar and the questions asked of women presenters are more likely to be patronizing or hostile. These effects are not due to women presenting in different fields, different seminar series, or different topics, as our analysis controls for the institution, seminar series, and JEL codes associated with each presentation. Moreover, it appears that there are important differences by field and that these differences are not uniformly mitigated by more rigid seminar formats. Our findings add to an emerging literature documenting ways in which women economists are treated differently than men, and suggest yet another potential explanation for their under-representation at senior levels within the economics profession.

White Men Can’t Jump, but Does It Even Matter? Exit Discrimination in the NBA
Davon Norris & Corey Moss-Pech
Social Forces, forthcoming


Diffuse status characteristics, such as race and gender, affect individuals’ professional opportunities and outcomes. Scholars suggest two possible explanations for these status disparities. First, uncertainty in measuring workers’ performances forces employers to rely on status as a heuristic or proxy for quality. Second, a history of racism and sexism in the United States creates a deeper cultural devaluation of low-status individuals that permeates organizational structures such that status advantage would persist even after accounting for observed worker performance. However, researchers struggle to accurately and objectively measure worker performance, making it difficult to adjudicate between these two perspectives. We overcome this problem using the case of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in which detailed player statistics are widely available to the public and decision makers. We analyze whether there is a racial disparity in the odds of exiting the league using discrete-time event history analysis. Using data from 1980–2017, we demonstrate that after accounting for player performance, Black players have 30% higher odds of exiting the league in a given season. We find this disparity is mostly driven by White bench players allowing us to elucidate how Whiteness operates as a credential in the NBA by giving marginal White players benefits such as longer careers than comparable Black players. These findings demonstrate that racial disparities in workplaces may persist even once performance is captured and in cases like the NBA where we might expect racial disparities to be minimized.

Family Comes First: Reproductive Health and the Gender Gap in Entrepreneurship
Jonathan Zandberg
Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming


Better access to reproductive healthcare increases women’s propensity to become entrepreneurs. Access correlates positively with female entrepreneurial activity and negatively with female entrepreneurial age. Examining firm size and personal income suggests it also improves the success of female-led businesses. None of these results hold when tested on men, women above 40, or other placebo professions. To establish causality, I exploit Roe v. Wade, state laws restricting abortion providers, and an index tracking state-level regulation of reproductive care. All three analyses suggest that policies securing better reproductive care enable more women to become entrepreneurs. I conclude by discussing various possible channels and mechanisms.

Racial Diversity and Measuring Merit: Evidence from Boston's Exam School Admissions
Melanie Rucinski & Joshua Goodman
Education Finance and Policy, forthcoming


The impact of admissions process design on the racial diversity of schools and colleges has sparked heated debates. We study the pipeline into Boston's three public exam schools to understand racial gaps in enrollment. Admission to these schools has historically been based on a combination of GPA and a score on an optional test from a private developer. We document racial gaps in test-taking rates, test scores, GPAs, preferences for the most selective school, and ultimate admission rates to all three schools. These gaps persist even among students with similarly high baseline achievement as measured by the state's mandatory standardized test. Substantial numbers of high-achieving Black and Hispanic students do not apply to the exam schools and to the most selective school in particular. The choice of standardized test used to measure academic merit strongly affects who is admitted.

“Burnt by the spotlight”: How leadership endorsements impact the longevity of female leaders
Priyanka Dwivedi, Vilmos Misangyi & Aparna Joshi
Journal of Applied Psychology, forthcoming


Women entering leadership positions such as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) role face barriers in the form of pervasive stereotypic expectations by which stakeholders implicitly evaluate their effectiveness. In this study, we examine the effects that a widely used organizational practice — leadership endorsements in the CEO succession announcement — has on female CEOs’ longevity in the CEO role. In particular, we theorize that the leadership endorsements of incoming female CEOs that highlight their past achievements and competence violate stakeholders’ prescriptive stereotypes, thereby increasing the likelihood of stakeholders viewing the female leaders through a stereotypical lens. Therefore, though well intentioned, leadership endorsements in female CEOs’ succession announcements foment a stereotype threat situation that is likely to have long-term negative consequences for female leaders. We investigate and find support for this relationship using archival data for a sample of 91 female CEO successions among S&P 1500 and Fortune 500 firms between 1995 and 2012. Several post hoc analyses, including in-depth interviews with 31 female executives, further strengthen our findings and show that this effect does not occur among male CEO succession events. We also find that two key facets of the succession context work to ameliorate this negative relationship: the insider status of the female CEO and the number of female executives at the focal firm. Our findings suggest that ostensibly gender-neutral practices can have unintended negative consequences for female leaders. We conclude with a discussion of the theoretical and practical implications of our findings.

The Role of Beliefs in Driving Gender Discrimination
Katherine Coffman, Christine Exley & Muriel Niederle
Management Science, forthcoming


Although there is ample evidence of discrimination against women in the workplace, it can be difficult to understand what factors contribute to discriminatory behavior. We use an experiment to both document discrimination and unpack its sources. First, we show that, on average, employers prefer to hire male over female workers for male-typed tasks, even when the two workers have identical résumés. Second, and most critically, we use a control condition to identify that this discrimination is not specific to gender. Employers are simply less willing to hire a worker from a group that performs worse on average, even when this group is, instead, defined by a nonstereotypical characteristic. In this way, beliefs about average group differences are the key driver of discrimination against women in our setting. We also document some evidence for in-group preferences that contribute to the gender discrimination observed. Finally, our design allows us to understand and quantify the extent to which image concerns mitigate discriminatory behavior.

When race trumps political ideology: Black teachers who advocate for social responsibility are penalized by both liberals and conservatives
Grace Rivera et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming


Meritocracy is a prominent narrative embedded in America’s educational system: work hard and anyone can achieve success. Yet, racial disparities in education suggest this narrative does not tell the full story. Four studies (N = 1,439) examined how applicants for a teaching position are evaluated when they invoke different narratives regarding who or what is to blame for racial disparities (i.e., individuals vs. systems). We hypothesized these evaluations would differ depending on teacher race (Black/White) and evaluator political orientation. Results revealed conservatives evaluated Black and White applicants advocating for personal responsibility more favorably than applicants advocating for social responsibility. Liberals preferred social responsibility applicants, but only when they were White. They were more ambivalent in their evaluations and hiring decisions if the applicants were Black. Our findings suggest that Black applicants advocating for social change are penalized by both liberal and conservative evaluators.

Gender Bias in Opinion Aggregation
Friederike Mengel
International Economic Review, forthcoming


Gender biases have been documented in many areas including hiring, promotion, or performance evaluations. Many of these decisions are made by committees. We experimentally investigate whether committee deliberation contributes to gender biases. In our experiments, participants perform a real effort task and then rate the task performance of other participants. Across treatments we vary the extent of deliberation possible. We find that deliberation increases gender biases. We explore several mechanisms and test two interventions. Randomizing the order of speaking does not reduce gender bias, but an information intervention where raters are informed of gender bias in prior sessions does.

Socioeconomic Status, Race, and Public Support for School Integration
Deven Carlson & Elizabeth Bell
AERA Open, forthcoming


Polling data routinely indicate broad support for the concept of diverse schools, but integration initiatives — both racial and socioeconomic — regularly encounter significant opposition. We leverage a nationally representative survey experiment to provide novel evidence on public support for integration initiatives. Specifically, we present respondents with a hypothetical referendum where we provide information on two policy options for assigning students to schools: (1) a residence-based assignment option and (2) an option designed to achieve stated racial/ethnic or socioeconomic diversity targets, with respondents randomly assigned to the racial/ethnic or socioeconomic diversity option. After calculating public support and average willingness-to-pay, our results demonstrate a clear plurality of the public preferring residence-based assignment to the racial diversity initiative, but a near-even split in support for residence-based assignment and the socioeconomic integration initiative. Moreover, we find that the decline in support for race-based integration, relative to the socioeconomic diversity initiative, is entirely attributable to White and Republican respondents.

School Principal Race, Teacher Racial Diversity, and Student Achievement
Brendan Bartanen & Jason Grissom
Journal of Human Resources, forthcoming


Exploiting variation from principal and teacher transitions over long administrative data panels from Missouri and Tennessee, we estimate the effects of principal race on the racial composition of a school’s teachers. Evidence from the two states is strikingly similar. Principals increase the proportion of same-race teachers in the school by 1.9–2.3 percentage points, on average. Both increased hiring and increased retention of same-race teachers explain this compositional change. Further, leveraging longitudinal student-level data from Tennessee, we find that having a same-race principal improves math achievement but that this effect largely operates through avenues other than the racial composition of the teaching staff.


from the


A weekly newsletter with free essays from past issues of National Affairs and The Public Interest that shed light on the week's pressing issues.


to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.