Our research tidbits this week look at some of the factors influencing gender diversity on company boards.

What does identity have to do with having few women on boards?
Drawing on the similarity-attraction perspective and social identity theory, the authors argue that male versus female interlocking directors are likely to have different experiences when they work alongside female board directors of other firms.

The theorised source of such experiences for male interlocking directors is in-group favouritism and/or a social identity threat-related discomfort. Interlocking female directors are theorised to be ambivalent between desiring social support versus experiencing identity threat-based career concerns. These experiences are predicted to motivate male versus female interlocking directors in different ways to reduce or, conversely, to potentially facilitate female representation on focal boards.

The authors additionally predict that economic crisis reduces the biases of male directors against appointing female directors to boards. The authors test the hypotheses based on a novel data set that includes 25,460 directors in Chinese A-share public companies with a sample of 27,058 firm-quarter observations for 1635 firms between 2006 and 2010 and find most of the hypotheses supported.

Lívia Markoczy, Sunny Li Sun & Jigao Zhu. 2020. Few Women on Boards: What’s Identity Got to Do With It?.

Journal of Business Ethics, 165(2), 311–327.

Corporate elites and women on supervisory boards in Germany
Although we can observe noticeable progress in gender diversity on corporate boards, these boards remain far from gender balanced. The paper builds on social identity theory to examine the impact of corporate elites—men and women who sit on multiple corporate boards—on board diversity.

The authors extend the main argument of social identity theory concerning favouritism based on homophily by suggesting that boards with men with multiple appointments are unwilling to include female board members to protect the monopoly value generated by their elite status. The empirical analysis, based on DAX 30 firms in the period of 2010–2015, shows that the presence of multi-board men is negatively associated with women’s participation, while the presence of multi-board women and other women on management boards is positively related to gender diversity on boards.

Furthermore, robustness tests support and confirm the conclusion that multi-board men have a significant association with board diversity, even with small size (i.e. 1 or 2). Additionally, the authors find a significant effect arising from pressure related to the introduction of gender quotas in Germany, effective in 2016, indicating the effectiveness of gender quota policies for board gender diversity.

Jie Huang, Marjo-Riitta Diehl & Sandra Paterlini. 2020. The Influence of Corporate Elites on Women on Supervisory Boards: Female Directors’ Inclusion in Germany.

Journal of Business Ethics, 165(2), 347–364.

Dissent in Consensusland under multi-stakeholder governance
Multi-stakeholder initiatives involve actors from several spheres of society (market, civil society and state) in collaborative arrangements to reach objectives typically related to sustainable development. In political CSR literature, these arrangements have been framed as improvements to transnational governance and as being somehow democratic.

The authors draw on Mouffe’s works on agonistic pluralism to problematise the notion that consensus-led multi-stakeholder initiatives bring more democratic control on corporate power. The authors examine two initiatives which address two very different issue areas: the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety (The Accord). The authors map the different kinds of adversarial relations involved in connection with the issues meant to be governed by the two initiatives, and find those adversarial relations to take six main shapes, affecting the initiatives in different ways: (1) competing regulatory initiatives; (2) pressure-response relations within multi-stakeholder initiatives; (3) pressure-response relations between NGOs and states through multi-stakeholder initiatives; (4) collaboration and competition between multi-stakeholder initiatives and states; (5) pressure-response relations between civil society actors and multi-stakeholder initiatives; and (6) counter-hegemonic movements against multi-stakeholder initiatives as hegemonic projects.

The authors conclude that multi-stakeholder initiatives cannot be democratic by themselves, and the authors argue that business and society researchers should not look at democracy or politics only internally to these initiatives, but rather study how issue areas are regulated through interactions between a variety of actors — both within and without the multi-stakeholder initiatives — who get to have a legitimate voice in this regulation.

Martin Fougère & Nikodemus Solitander. 2020. Dissent in Consensusland: An Agonistic Problematization of Multi-stakeholder Governance.

Read this Open Access article online for free.

Journal of Business Ethics, 164(4), 683–699.

How does job-related diversity affect boards’ strategic participation?
More than ever, corporate leaders consider the presence of different skills, knowledge, and experience in their boardrooms being important for boards’ involvement throughout the whole strategy process. However, even though of great practical relevance, we have limited knowledge about how such diversity affects boards’ active contribution to corporate strategy.

Applying information-processing theory, the authors explore how job-related diversity may be an important determinant for boards’ strategic participation. Using a survey database collected in Norway, the authors find that job-related diversity contributes to boards’ strategic participation through directors’ use of knowledge and skills.

Gabaldon, Patricia, Kanadlı, Sadi Boĝaç & Bankewitz, Max. 2018. How does job-related diversity affect boards’ strategic participation? An information-processing approach.

Long range planning, 51(6), 937-952.

Empowerment and culture can shape board gender diversity
In this study, the authors use a mixed methods research design to investigate how national cultural forces may impede or enhance the positive impact of females’ economic and political empowerment on increasing gender diversity of corporate boards.

Using both a longitudinal correlation-based methodology and a configurational approach with fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis, the authors integrate theoretical mechanisms from gender schema and institutional theories to develop a mid-range theory about how female empowerment and national culture shape gender diversity on corporate boards around the world.

With their configurational approach, the authors conceptually and empirically model the complexity that is associated with the simultaneous interdependencies, both complementary and substitutive ones, between female empowerment processes and various cultural dimensions. The findings contribute unique insights to research focused on board gender diversity as well as provide information for firm decision makers and policymakers about possible solutions for addressing the continuing issue of the underrepresentation of women on corporate boards.

Krista B. Lewellyn & Maureen I. Muller-Kahle. 2020. The Corporate Board Glass Ceiling: The Role of Empowerment and Culture in Shaping Board Gender Diversity.

Journal of Business Ethics, 165(2), 329–346.