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Assistant professor Felice Klein’s research featured by major publication

Boise State University Online Master of Business Administration assistant professor Felice Klein is off to quite a start to the new year. A Jan. 19 Forbes article titled “How Women CEOs Safeguard Against Risky Appointments,” by Corinne Post, cited and quoted Klein and the extensive research conducted by her, Pierre Chaigneau (Queen’s University), and Cynthia E. Devers (Virginia Tech University), which was published in 2021.

“The general idea is women are vastly under-represented in CEO roles,” she said. “This has increased over the years, but at the time of this study ranged between 4-6%. We wanted to examine the contexts that may influence women accepting these roles — particularly their concerns about them — which could have implications on how firms recruit more women into these roles.

“We look at newly-appointed CEO severance agreements, which are negotiated between CEO candidates and boards prior to appointment. They specify the benefits and payments owed to CEOs if they’re terminated. These agreements reduce the risks of taking on these roles, functioning as a form of termination insurance.”

Klein and her colleagues argue in the paper that the severance packages should reflect the termination risk CEO candidates receive when they accept these positions. Klein was lead author of the research.

“We also try to understand the contexts that reduce their perceptions of termination risks, like when there are more women on the board or women are in an industry where there are more women CEOs,” she said.

“In contrast, we argue and show that other factors increase their perceptions of termination risk, such as joining a firm that’s had declining performance, or whether the prior CEO was dismissed early from the job.”

Doing Due Diligence

Klein is from Miami, Florida, and graduated from the University of Florida in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in finance and an economics minor.

She went on to earn a Master of Industrial and Labor Relations with a specialization in human resources and a minor in labor economics from Cornell University in 2005. That’s when she got her first taste of teaching as a teaching assistant.

“I liked teaching,” she said. “I especially enjoyed being in the classroom and spending time with students, helping them gain the knowledge and experience they needed to be successful in their future careers.

“I started to become interested in earning a Ph.D. at that point, but I wasn’t ready to commit because it takes about five years. That’s when I went to work, participating in a human resources development program for two years. After that, I decided I wanted to be back in the classroom.”

After graduating from Cornell with a Ph.D. in Human Resource Studies with a minor in labor economics from Cornell in 2012, Klein began her teaching career as an assistant professor of human resources and labor relations at Michigan State University.

Klein came to Boise State in 2018. In addition to teaching People and Organizations in the Online MBA, she also teaches Managing Human Resources in the Professional MBA program and Compensation and Benefits and Human Resource Management, a pair of undergraduate courses.

“I enjoy teaching those courses because those are my broad areas of research,” she said. “I also enjoy interacting with students and helping them inside and outside of the classroom to understand the material, link it to current events going on in the world, and come up with solutions.”

Still Going Strong

Although Klein’s work has been cited in The Wall Street Journal, BBC News and Harvard Business Review, she is thrilled to see it reach even more readers in another prestigious publication.

“It’s not the first one, but it’s the first one in Forbes,” she said. “It’s amazing because that particular article does a great job of explaining our research.”

The triumvirate conducted its research for a number of years. The paper was initially published in the Southern Management Association’s Journal of Management. Devers became managing editor of that publication last July.

“Now, we move on to other questions about the underrepresentation of women in executive-level roles,” she said. “We will study something else to understand the causes of these issues and the potential ways to address it.”

Klein enjoys biking, Nordic skiing and doing yoga in her free time and owns three rescue dogs. She plans to continue feeding her passions for teaching and research.

“There are challenges and issues that either organizations face or that we face as a society,” she said. “I ask my students, ‘How do we fix that?’ As they develop potential solutions, I push them to become much more analytical in their thought process.

“When they’re weighing a decision, they should ask ‘What are the potential outcomes? What is the most effective way to proceed?’

“Most of the time, it’s not a clear answer. You have to weigh the benefits and the costs. That’s an important skill for students to learn as they think about addressing issues in their organization or in society.”

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