Do activist hedge funds target female CEOs? The role of CEO gender in hedge fund activism

Bill B. Francis, Iftekhar Hasan, Yinjie (Victor) Shen, Qiang Wu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)372-393
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Financial Economics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • Collaborative communication
  • Cooperation
  • Female CEOs
  • Hedge fund activism
  • Transformational leadership style

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Strategy and Management


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