29.07.2021 • 20/2021
Communication instead of conflict – why are female CEOs so interesting for hedge funds
The value of female-led firms is enhanced more by the intervention of activist investors than that of firms with male CEOs. This is the result of a recent paper by Iftekhar Hasan (Fordham University and IWH) and Qiang Wu (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, RPI) at the Halle Institute for Economic Research (IWH). "The results show that female CEOs particularly benefit from the intervention of hedge fund activists due to their strong communication and interpersonal skills," explains Iftekhar Hasan. This is because, on average, the intervention of an activist hedge fund increases the value of the firm ex post. To achieve this, activist hedge funds such as Carl Icahn, Trian Fundmanagement or Elliott prefer to rely on communication and cooperation with the management.
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Do Activist Hedge Funds Target Female CEOs? The Role of CEO Gender in Hedge Fund Activism
Journal of Financial Economics,
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.
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