The Value of Skill Signals for Women's Careers

The Value of Skill Signals for Women's Careers

Alexandra Niessen-Ruenzi, Leah Zimmerer

Series number :

Serial Number: 

Date posted :

March 05 2023

Last revised :

March 05 2023
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  • Skills • 
  • Signals • 
  • Promotion • 
  • Gender

We show that observable skill signals are more important for women's career advancement than for men's. Signals of higher education and professional experience increase male directors' probability to enter a leadership position by 5.9%, and their compensation by 6.8% ($291,000).

Female directors with these signals are 12.9% more likely to enter a leadership position, and their compensation is 21.1% ($856,500) higher. These results are in line with models of screening discrimination, in which women need to provide more observable skill signals to make up for the fact that employers find it more difficult to judge their unobservable qualification for a leadership position. Supporting this channel, we find that our results are stronger if information asymmetries between (mostly) male employers and female candidates are larger: successions after the sudden death of a CEO, successions in firms with all-male nomination committees, and outside hires.


Real name:
Leah Zimmerer