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Does Confucianism Reduce Board Gender Diversity? Firm-Level Evidence from China

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Abstract

This study extends previous literature on the association between Confucianism and corporate decisions by examining Confucianism’s influence on board gender diversity. Using a sample of Chinese listed firms during the period of 2001–2011 and geographic-proximity-based Confucianism variables, I provide strong and consistent evidence to show that Confucianism is significantly negatively associated with board gender diversity, suggesting that the proportion of women directors in the boardroom is significantly lower for firms surrounded by strong Confucianism atmosphere than for firms located in regions with weak Confucianism atmosphere. This finding also implies that Confucian philosophical system has important impacts on business ethics and women’s status in corporate governance. Moreover, GDP per capita, the proxy for economic development level in a province in which a firm is located, attenuates the negative association between Confucianism and board gender diversity. Above results are robust to different measures of Confucianism and board gender diversity and are still valid after controlling for the potential endogeneity between Confucianism and board gender diversity.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Also, some famous writers heavily criticized Confucianism. For example, in his writing of “The True Story of Ah Q”, Lu Xun (1881–1936), one of the most famous writers in China, criticized that Confucian philosophy had shaped Chinese people with slave personality.

  2. 2.

    Please refer to the following website: http://m.putclub.com/mobile.php?action=article&id=65986. Moreover, as reported in the Hurun list of richest women in 2011, Chinese women only make up 15.5 % of the list (http://www.hurun.net/zhcn/NewsShow.aspx?nid=156).

  3. 3.

    Shi et al. (2014) find the association between culture and GDP per capita, the proxy for provincial economic performance that varies across different provinces.

  4. 4.

    Please refer to the detailed procedures of geographic-proximity-based Confucianism variables in Du (2014a)

  5. 5.

    Results are not qualitatively changed by deleting the top and bottom 1 % of the sample or by no winsorization.

  6. 6.

    Non-tabulated results in robustness checks and additional tests are available upon request (similarly hereinafter).

  7. 7.

    I acknowledge one referee for his/her valuable suggestion on some future research.

  8. 8.

    I acknowledge one referee for his/her providing me with the countervailing evidence and the tendency in East Asian countries to hire "pink" at entry-level positions in Big 4 and other public Audit firms in China and Thailand.

  9. 9.

    In January, 2013, The Britain’s House of Lords held a debate on boardroom diversity. As a result, House of Lords deplored low levels of female board representation, but rejected EU-imposed quotas. Poland’s lower house of parliament took similar action on January 4, 2013, slapping down EU quotas by 333 to 60 votes with 35 abstentions. Please see the following website in detail: http://m.putclub.com/mobile.php?action=article&id=65986.

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Acknowledgments

I am especially grateful to the section editor (Prof. Domènec Melé) and two anonymous reviewers for their many insightful suggestions and constructive comments. I also appreciate valuable comments Hongmei Pei, Quan Zeng, Yingying Chang, and participants of my presentations at the symposium on “the impacts of macroeconomic policies on corporate behavior” (hosted by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and Guanghua School of Management, Beijing University), Xiamen University, Ocean University of China, Shandong University, and Shanghai University. Moreover, Prof. Xingqiang Du acknowledge financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (approval number: 71072053), the Key Project of Key Research Institute of Humanities and Social Science in Ministry of Education (approval number: 13JJD790027), the Specialized Research Fund for the Doctoral Program of Higher Education of China (approval number: 20120121110007), and Xiamen University’s Prosperity Plan Project of Philosophy and Social Sciences (the sub-project for Center for Accounting Studies and the sub-project for School of Management).

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Appendix

Appendix

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Table 11 Variable definitions

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Du, X. Does Confucianism Reduce Board Gender Diversity? Firm-Level Evidence from China. J Bus Ethics 136, 399–436 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-014-2508-x

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Keywords

  • Confucianism
  • Board gender diversity
  • GDP per capita
  • Geographic-proximity-based Confucianism variable
  • Women directors in the boardroom