This week’s articles focus on attitudes to gender equality on company boards.

The masculinisation of ethical leadership  
This article argues that while ethical leadership in mainstream theorising is assumed to be a cognitive exercise, leaders’ bodies in fact play a significant role in the social construction of ethical leadership.

Their bodies (both their exposure and concealment) become particularly potent when leaders are depicted via the interplay between visual and verbal modes in the media. In order to extend current understandings of ethical leadership, this study employs a discourse analytic approach to examine how visual and verbal devices convey ethical leadership for two of Australia’s major bank chief executive officers—John Stewart and Ralph Norris—before and during the global financial crisis.

Based on the analysis, this article demonstrates that ethical leadership is constructed through the confluence of elite and working class masculinities that is multimodally embodied and disembodied. The article suggests that what it means to be an ethical leader is invariably informed by class-based patriarchal norms that can serve to reinforce the masculinisation of ethics.

Helena Liu. 2017. The Masculinisation of Ethical Leadership Dis/embodiment. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 144(2), 263–278.


When organisational needs differ from employee preferences 
Women are underrepresented in the upper echelons of management in most countries. Despite the effectiveness of identity conscious initiatives for increasing the proportion of women, many organisations have been reluctant to implement such initiatives because potential employees may perceive them negatively.

Given the increasing competition for labour, attracting talent is relevant for the long-term success of organisations. In this study, Windscheid and his team used an experimental design (N = 693) to examine the effects of identity blind and identity conscious gender diversity initiatives on people’s pursuit intentions toward organisations using them.

The researchers used counterfactual thinking, derived from fairness theory, as a guiding framework for hypothesis development and investigated the moderating influence of a forthcoming government-mandated gender quota as well as individual characteristics (e.g., gender). Participants reviewed statements regarding workplace diversity initiatives and rated either the initiatives’ effectiveness or indicated their intentions to pursue employment with organisations using them.

Of those rating pursuit intentions, half were informed that the country in which they were conducting their job search was about to implement gender quotas. Results indicated a diversity management paradox such that initiatives perceived as more effective made organisations using them less attractive as employers. However, these negative perceptions were mitigated by a government-mandated quota, and also lower among women. Implications for the study and practice of diversity are discussed.

Leon Windscheid, Lynn Bowes-Sperry, Jens Mazei & Michèle Morner. 2017. The Paradox of Diversity Initiatives: When Organizational Needs Differ from Employee Preferences. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 145(1), 33–48.


Why so few female company directors?  
This paper analyses the determinants of women’s representation on boards of directors based on a panel of all privately owned or listed Danish firms with at least 50 employees observed during the period 1998–2010.

The authors focus on the directors who are not elected by the employees and test three hypotheses on female board representation that the authors denote the female-led hypothesis, the tokenism hypothesis, and the pipeline hypothesis, respectively.

The researchers find evidence rejecting the female-led hypothesis. Firms with a female chairperson on the board of directors tend to have significantly fewer other non-employee-elected female board members. The authors also find clear evidence of a tokenism behaviour in Danish companies. The likelihood of enlarging the share of non-employee-elected female board members is significantly smaller if one, two, or more women have sat on the board of directors.

Finally, the pipeline hypothesis is partly confirmed. The relation between the female pipeline of potentially qualified directors and female directors is weaker than the similar relation for males. The findings offer insights to policy makers interested in promoting gender diversity within boardrooms. This empirical evidence suggests that an important way to increase the female proportion of non-employee-elected board members is that more women reach top executive positions.

Nina Smith and Pierpaolo Parrotta. 2018. Why so Few Women on Boards of Directors? Empirical Evidence from Danish Companies in 1998–2010. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 147(2), 445–467.


Discrimination against female top managers in China  
Gao, Lin and Ma examined whether sex discrimination contributes to the underrepresentation of female executives in large corporations. China’s strong cultural preference for sons has made newborn boys greatly outnumber newborn girls. Using the male-to-female sex ratio at birth as the proxy for discrimination against women, they found that firms headquartered in more discriminatory areas hire fewer female executives.

Even conditional on a woman reaching an executive position, she faces a higher likelihood of dismissal and receives lower compensation than her male counterparts. Overall, the findings suggest that sex discrimination plays an important role in preventing women from climbing the corporate ladder.

Gao, H., Lin, Y. & Ma, Y. 2016. Sex Discrimination and Female Top Managers: Evidence from China.
Journal of Business Ethics, 138(4), 683–702.


Gender affects how followers react to Machiavellian leaders  
Integrating power dependence and gender role theories, the researchers investigate the interactive effects of followers’ gender and leaders’ Machiavellian orientation in predicting followers’ usage of upward influence tactics. Using a sample of 156 matched leader–follower dyads, results showed that followers’ gender moderated the relationship between Time 1 leaders’ Machiavellian orientation and followers’ use of upward influence tactics at Time 2 (6 months later).

Specifically, the relationship between Time 1 leaders’ Machiavellianism and Time 2 followers’ ingratiation (a soft influence tactic) was significant and positive for women followers and non-significant for men followers, while the relationship between Time 1 leaders’ Machiavellianism and Time 2 followers’ assertiveness (a hard influence tactic) was significant and positive for men followers but non-significant for women followers.

These results suggest that gender plays an important role in how followers react to Machiavellian leaders. The social and ethical implications of these findings are discussed.

Capezio, A., Wang, L., Restubog, S.L.D. et al. 2017. To Flatter or To Assert? Gendered Reactions to Machiavellian Leaders.
Journal of Business Ethics, 141(1), 1–11.


Managers’ political beliefs and gender inequality among subordinates 
To explore whether managers’ beliefs and attitudes influence gender inequality among their subordinates, the authors theorise about the relationship between managers’ political ideology, situated on a liberal–conservative continuum, and differences in the hiring, work team selection, and promotion of male versus female subordinates, as well as how a manager’s gender moderates this relationship.

Authors Carnahan and Greenwood analyse novel microdata from the U.S. legal industry from 2007 to 2012 and find that large law offices whose partners are more liberal hire a larger percentage of female associates, that more-liberal partners are more likely to select female associates to be members of their client teams, and that associates whose supervising partners are more liberal have greater gender parity in promotion rates.

Further, the researchers find that the ideology of male partners is significantly more influential than the ideology of female partners in affecting these differences. The researchers find little evidence that sorting on the part of higher-quality female associates drives the results.

Seth Carnahan and Brad N. Greenwood, 2017. Managers’ Political Beliefs and Gender Inequality among Subordinates: Does His Ideology Matter More Than Hers? 
Administrative Science Quarterly, first published May 5, 2017.
DOI: 10.1177/0001839217708780