Women's representation in managerial hierarchies: An examination of trickle‐down and pipeline effects. By: Stainback, Kevin; Roberts, Helen and Biswas, Pallab Kumar. 2024. Human Resource Management. p1.

The trickle‐down effect has been proposed as one means to address women’s continued underrepresentation in leadership positions globally. While earlier research supported the trickle‐down effect’s prediction that increasing women’s representation at higher managerial levels will positively impact women’s careers at lower managerial levels, recent studies provide inconsistent evidence, leading to claims that it may be spurious. Due to data limitation, most prior trickle‐down research has explored just two managerial levels—board and executives—making it difficult to separate a trickle‐down effect from external pressures (e.g., shareholders, law) or internal factors (e.g., organizational culture) that may cause it. Furthermore, prior research does not adequately account for women’s representation in managerial pipelines, a crucial source of potential managerial talent. To address these concerns, we analyze Australian workplace panel data (2014–2020) that allow for a more robust test of the trickle‐down effect than previously examined.
Our results support the trickle‐down effect across multiple managerial levels below the board level, independent of managerial pipeline effects. The trickle‐down and pipeline effects were only observed for positions immediately above and below each managerial level. This highlights the proximity of positions within management hierarchies where the in‐group preference and women’s direct advocacy for other women are most likely to occur. Our study suggests that simply appointing more women to top positions, such as boards, while beneficial, is not enough to address gender inequality in management meaningfully. We recommend that rather than focusing on gender representation at the top, organizations should set gender diversity goals and monitor progress at all managerial levels. We conclude with implications for theory, practice, and future research.