Women and international strategy: preliminary results


  • Giorgia Maria D'Allura University of Catania
  • Mariasole Bannò
  • Emilia Filippi




Women; Upper echelon; Internationalization; FDI; Context; Empirical analysis


Framing of the research. Despite the large literature focusing separately on women in the upper echelons and on firm internationalization, gender differences in international business research have so far received little attention. We enrich this field by adopting the liberal feminist theory. We search for discrimination and/or barriers within the firm (i.e., internal context) and in the external context as they can negatively affect the effectiveness of women directors when internationalizing. 

Purpose of the paper. By relying on the liberal feminist theory we suggest that while men and women are equally capable to internationalize, women may face gendered barriers within and outside the firm, which hinder internationalization. We aim to detect if and how the (internal and external) context mediate the impact of women in the upper echelons on internationalization.

Methodology. A dataset of 2,861 Italian firms referring to 2017 is used.

Results. Our analysis shows that when the (external and/or internal) context is non-egalitarian, women-led firms are less likely to internationalize due to the existing barriers.

Research limitations. The general limitation in the quantitative research design could be addressed with a deeper analysis of the characteristics of female directors. The limitation regarding observation time could be faced considering the span of time women have been on the board. The roles the women hold (e.g., CEO) could also be investigated.

Managerial implications. Remedial strategies should focus on development of the firm in order to make it more egalitarian. Moreover, public incentive programs should address impediments such as non-egalitarian attitudes or other gendered barriers.

Originality of the paper. We enriched the theory of international businesses by adopting the liberal feminist theory, envisioning a “feminist international business theory”. We searched for discrimination and/or barriers in the internal and/or external context.


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