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To be better to be equal: In search of gender-based performance effects in financial statements of Italian unlisted company boards

Massimo Cecchi
Published: 12 July 2021

Abstract: Although Italy is characterized by a Rhine model of capitalism, with an underdeveloped stock exchange, previous studies on gender inequality have focused only on the analysis of the country’s few listed companies. Our study examines, instead, a larger sample of approximately 15,000 Italian limited companies, which include, in particular, unlisted companies. In the absence of estimates of these firms’ value on a stock market, the study measures performance based on financial statement data and ratios. No statistically significant correlations between performance and gender emerge. Therefore, if women have to “be better” to be treated “equally”, we can conclude that women do not seem to perform better than their male counterparts. However, women are not found to perform worse, either. Hence, we can also conclude that their underrepresentation can only be the result of sociocultural discrimination. We believe that this reversal of perspective should also be considered in future studies in search of overperformance to justify leading roles for women
Keywords: model / stock / Italian / women / companies / based performance / unlisted company / financial statement

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