Role (in-)congruity and the Catch 22 for female executives: how stereotyping contributes to the gender pay gap at top executive level. By: Diederich, Sarah; Iseke, Anja; Pull, Kerstin and Schneider, Martin. 2024. International Journal of Human Resource Management. Vol. 35 Issue 7, p1283-1311.

We examine to what extent the gender pay gap at top executive level is linked to gender stereotypes, i.e. to societal beliefs about the attributes women and men possess and the roles they ought to perform. We theorize that, even at the highest hierarchical level of an organization, executive functions are gender stereotyped: some (such as IT) are considered typically ‘masculine’, while others (such as human resources) are considered typically ‘feminine’. We argue gender stereotyping at the executive level to be related to pay such that masculine functions are paid more than feminine ones.¬†Referring to role congruity theory, we further argue that women are paid better when they hold less masculine and therefore more role congruous functions. We find supportive evidence for both predictions when studying large European companies across the years 2014 to 2018. Pay data for 353 executives were linked to results of a survey in which participants were asked to rate the masculinity of the areas of responsibility of different executive functions. We find an empirical pattern that reflects a Catch 22 situation in which women executives appear unable to increase their pay by switching to more masculine functions that are, on average, better paid.