The Contribution of Women on Boards of Directors: Going beyond the Surface

Título (ingles) The Contribution of Women on Boards of Directors: Going beyond the Surface
Temáticas asociadas Empresariado femenino | Organismos | Investigación y ciencia
Año de edición 01/0
Autor/es Sabina Nielsen and Morten Huse
Entidad editora Corporate Governance: An International Review

Traditional theories used to explain board governance do not provide much insight about how women contribute to board effectiveness. From a traditional agency theory perspective (Fama, 1980; Fama & Jensen, 1983; Jensen & Meckling, 1976) or a resource-dependence perspective (Pfeffer & Salancik, 1978), the gender of a corporate director would not matter for his/her performance of board tasks. Recognizing the limitations of traditional governance theories in explaining the role and contributions of women on corporate boards, this paper draws upon gender differences (Eagly & Johannesen-Schmidt, 2001; Eagly & Johnson, 1990) and group effectiveness theories (e.g., Cohen & Bailey, 1997; Gladstein, 1984; Hackman, 1987; Pelled, 1996; Williams & O’Reilly, 1998) and offers two main contributions to the literature. First, by applying gender differences theories to the context of corporate boards, it furthers our understanding of whether and how women directors make a difference to board effectiveness. Second, it illuminates the role of board processes as mediators between board composition (e.g., gender diversity) and board effectiveness. Prior research on gender differences suggests that whereas there are no overall differences in effectiveness between women and men, there are some gender related differences for some behavior and skills in some situations (Yukl, 2002). Such differences in leadership styles may have important implications for board processes and dynamics as well as for board effectiveness. Applying theories of gender related differences in the context of board research, we develop and test hypotheses about the differential impact of women directors on different board processes and board tasks. Our empirical analysis is based on a comprehensive survey of board processes conducted among 201 Norwegian companies. In view of the increasing pressure to raise the number of women directors as well as the changing demographics of the workplace in general, the results of this study may have important implications for both corporate boards as well as for policy-makers.
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