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

  • Ioanna Boulouta


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.


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



Board gender diversity


Corporate social performance


Corporate social responsibility


Dow Jones sustainability index


Generalised method of moments


Instrumental variable


Kinder, Lydenberg, Domini & Co., Inc


Non-governmental organisation


Sustainable asset management


Structural equations modelling


Standard and poor’s


Socially responsible investment



I wish to express my gratitude to the Editors and anonymous Reviewers of the Journal of Business Ethics for their most constructive comments. I also wish to thank Prof. M. Kilduff, Dr. E. Yin, Dr. S. Zyglidopoulos, Prof. R. Sugden and Dr. C. Pitelis for their encouragement in the realisation of this study and their useful criticism at an earlier version of this paper.


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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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