Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 113, Issue 2, pp 185–197 | Cite as

Hidden Connections: The Link Between Board Gender Diversity and Corporate Social Performance

Article

Abstract

This study examines whether and how female board directors may affect corporate social performance (CSP) by drawing on social role theory and feminist ethics literature. The empirical analysis, based on a sample of 126 firms drawn from the S&P500 group of companies over a 5-year period, suggests that board gender diversity (BGD) significantly affects CSP. However, this impact depends on the social performance metric under investigation. In particular, more gender diverse boards exert stronger influence on CSP metrics focusing on ‘negative’ business practices, such as the ‘concerns’ dimension of the Kinder Lydenberg Domini, Inc. (KLD) ratings. This is because such CSP ratings have the potential to induce higher levels of ‘empathic caring’, which strongly appeals to female directors. Hence, this study reveals further hidden connections in the BGD–CSP link which have important implications for managers, nongovernmental organisations and socially responsible investors.

Keywords

Board gender diversity Corporate social performance Empathy Ethics of care Feminist ethics Gender stereotypes Social role theory 

Abbreviations

BGD

Board gender diversity

CSP

Corporate social performance

CSR

Corporate social responsibility

DJSI

Dow Jones sustainability index

GMM

Generalised method of moments

IV

Instrumental variable

KLD

Kinder, Lydenberg, Domini & Co., Inc

NGO

Non-governmental organisation

SAM

Sustainable asset management

SEM

Structural equations modelling

S&P

Standard and poor’s

SRI

Socially responsible investment

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Judge Business SchoolUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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