Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 102, Issue 2, pp 299–317 | Cite as

Women Directors on Corporate Boards: From Tokenism to Critical Mass

  • Mariateresa Torchia
  • Andrea Calabrò
  • Morten Huse
Article

Abstract

Academic debate on the strategic importance of women corporate directors is widely recognized and still open. However, most corporate boards have only one woman director or a small minority of women directors. Therefore they can still be considered as tokens. This article addresses the following question: does an increased number of women corporate boards result in a build up of critical mass that substantially contributes to firm innovation? The aim is to test if ‘at least three women’ could constitute the desired critical mass by identifying different minorities of women directors (one woman, two women and at least three women). Tests are conducted on a sample of 317 Norwegian firms. The results suggest that attaining critical mass – going from one or two women (a few tokens) to at least three women (consistent minority) – makes it possible to enhance the level of firm innovation. Moreover, the results show that the relationship between the critical mass of women directors and the level of firm innovation is mediated by board strategic tasks. Implications for both theory and practice, and future research directions are discussed.

Keywords

corporate governance critical mass theory board strategic tasks organizational innovation tokenism women directors 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Amabile, T. M.: 1988, ‘A Model of Creativity and Innovation in Organizations’, in N.M. Staw and L.L. Cummings (eds.), Research in Organizational Behaviour (JAI Press, Greenwich, CT), pp. 123-167.Google Scholar
  2. Amason, A. C.: 1996, ‘Distinguishing the Effects of Functional and Dysfunctional Conflict on Strategic Decision Making: Resolving a Paradox for Top Management Teams’, Academy of Management Journal 39(1), 123-148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andrews, K.; 1981, ‘Corporate Strategy as a Vital Function of the Board’, Harvard Business Review 59(11), 174-184.Google Scholar
  4. Arfken, D. E., S. L. Bellar and M. M. Helms: 2004, ‘The Ultimate Glass Ceiling Revisited: The Presence of Women on Corporate Boards’, Journal of Business Ethics 50(2), 177-186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Asch, S. E.: 1951, ‘Effects of Group Pressure upon the Modification and Distortion of Judgement’, in H. Guetzkow (ed.), Groups, Leadership and Men (Carnegie Press, Pittsburgh, PA), pp. 177-190.Google Scholar
  6. Asch, S. E.: 1955, ‘Opinions and Social Pressure’, Scientific American 193(5), 31-35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bantel, K. A. and S. E. Jackson, 1989, ‘Top Management and Innovations in Banking: Does the Composition of the Top Team Make a Difference?’, Strategic Management Journal 10(2), 107-124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Baron, R. M. and D. A., Kenny: 1986, ‘The Moderator-Mediator Variable Distinction in Social Psychological Research: Conceptual, Strategic and Statistical Considerations’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 51(6), 1173-1182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Baysinger, B. D. and R. E. Hoskisson: 1990, ‘The Composition of Boards of Directors and Strategic Control: Effects on Corporate Strategy’, Academy of Management Review 15(1), 72-87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Baysinger, B. D., R. D. Kosnik and T. Turk: 1991, ‘Effects of Board and Ownership Structure on Corporate R&D Strategy’, Academy of Management Journal, 34(1), 205-214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bear, S., N. Rahman and C. Post: 2010, ‘The Impact of Board Diversity and Gender Composition on Corporate Social Responsibility and Firm Reputation’, Journal of Business Ethics 97(2), 207-222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bernardi, R., S. Bosco and V. L. Columb: 2009, ‘Does Female Representation on Boards of Directors Associate with the ‘Most Ethical Companies’ List?’, Corporate Reputation Review 12(3), 270-280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bilimoria, D.: 2000, ‘Building the Business for Women Directors’, in R. J. Burke and M. C. Mattis (eds.), Women on Corporate Boards: International Challenges and Opportunities (Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht), pp. 25–40.Google Scholar
  14. Bilimoria, D. and M. Huse: 1997, ‘A qualitative comparison of the boardroom experiences of U.S.and Norwegian women corporate directors’, International Review of Women and Leadership 3(2): 63-73.Google Scholar
  15. Bilimoria, D. and J. V. Wheeler: 2000, ‘Women Corporate Directors: Current Research and Future Directions’, in Davidsson, M. and R. Burke (eds), Women in Management: Current Research Issues (Paul Chapham, London), pp. 138-163.Google Scholar
  16. Blackman, D. and G. Davison: 2004. ‘The Role of Mental Models in Sustaining Innovative Teams’, in Proceedings of the Fifth CINET Conference, Sydney, Australia, 22–25 September.Google Scholar
  17. Bond, R.: 2005, ‘Group Size and Conformity’, Group Processes and Intergroup Relations 8(4), 331-354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Burke, R.: 1997, ‘Women on Corporate Boards of Directors: A Needed Resource’, Journal of Business Ethics 16(9), 37-43.Google Scholar
  19. Burns, T. and G. Stalker: 1961, The Management of Innovation (Tavistock, London).Google Scholar
  20. Campbell, K. and A. Mínguez-Vera: 2008, ‘Gender Diversity in the Boardroom and Firm Financial Performance’, Journal of Business Ethics 83(3): 435-451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Carver, J.: 2002, On Board Leadership (Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA).Google Scholar
  22. Cassell, C.: 2000, ‘Managing Diversity in the New Millennium’, Personnel Review 29(3), 268-274.Google Scholar
  23. Caves, B. E. and P. Ghemawat: 1992, ‘Identifying Mobility Barriers’, Strategic Management Journal 13(1), 1-12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Childs, S. and M. L. Krook: 2008, ‘Critical Mass Theory and Women’s Political Representation’, Political Studies 56(3), 725-736.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Conway, J. M. and A. I. Huffcutt: 2003, ‘A review and evaluation of exploratory factor analysis practices in organizational research’, Organizational Research Methods 6(2), 147-168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Daft, R. L: 1978, ‘A Dual-Core Model of Organizational Innovation’, Academy of Management Journal 21(2), 193-210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Daily, C. M. and D. R. Dalton: 2003, ‘Women in the Boardroom: a Business Imperative’, Journal of Business Strategy 24(5), 8-10.Google Scholar
  28. Damanpour, F.: 1996, ‘Organizational Complexity and Innovation: Developing and Testing Multiple Contingency Models’, Management Science 42(5), 693-716.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Damanpour, F. and W.M. Evan: 1984, ‘Organizational Innovation and Performance: The Problem of Organizational Lag’, Administrative Science Quarterly 29(3), 392-402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Eagly, A. H.: 2005, ‘Achieving Relational Authenticity in Leadership: Does Gender Matter?’, Leadership Quarterly 16(3), 459-474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Erhardt, N. L., J. D. Werbel and C. B. Schrader: 2003, ‘Board of Director Diversity and Firm Financial Performance’, Corporate Governance: An International Review 11(2), 102-111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Erkut, S., V. W. Kramer and A. M. Konrad: 2008, ‘Critical Mass: Does the Number of Women on a Corporate Board Make a Difference?’, in Vinnicombe S., V. Singh, R. Burke, D. Bilimoria and M. Huse (eds.), Women on Corporate Boards of Directors: International Research and Practice (Edward Elgar, London), pp. 222-232.Google Scholar
  33. Etzkowitz, H., C. Kemelgor, M. Neuschatz, B. Uzzi and J. Alonzo: 1994, ‘The Paradox of Critical Mass for Women in Science’, Science 266(5182), 51-54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Finkelstein, S. and D. C. Hambrick: 1996, Strategic Leadership: Top Executives and Their Effects on Organizations (St. Paul: West).Google Scholar
  35. Fondas, N. and S. Sassalos: 2000, ‘A different voice in the boardroom: How the presence of women directors affects board influence over management’, Global Focus, 12(2), 13-22.Google Scholar
  36. Forbes, D. P. and F. J. Milliken: 1999, ‘Cognition and Corporate Governance: Understanding Boards of Directors as Strategic Decision- Making Groups’, Academy of Management Review 24(3), 489-506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Franko, L. G.: 1989, ‘Global Corporate Competition: Who’s Winning, Who’s Losing and the R&D Factor as one Reason Why’, Strategic Management Journal 10(5), 449-474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Golden, B. R. and E. J. Zajac: 2001, ‘When Will Boards Influence Strategy? Inclination x Power = Strategic Change’, Strategic Management Journal 22(12), 1087-1111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Granovetter, M.: 1978, ‘Threshold Models of Collective Behavior’, American Journal of Sociology 83(6), 1420-1443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Grey, S.: 2002, ‘Does Size Matter? Critical Mass and New Zealand’s Women MPs’, Parliamentary Affairs 55(1), 19-29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Grey, S.: 2006, ‘New Zealand’, in M. Sawer, M. Tremblay and L. Trimble (eds), Representing Women in Parliament: A Comparative (Routledge, Study, New York), pp. 134-151.Google Scholar
  42. Hair, J. F., R. E. Anderson, R. L. Tatham and W. C. Black: 1998, Multivariate Data Analysis (Prentice Hall, NJ).Google Scholar
  43. Hansen, G. S. and C. W. L. Hill: 1991, ‘Are Institutional Investors Myopic? A Time-Series Study of Four Technology-Driven Industries’, Strategy Management Journal 12(1), 1-16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Harrison, D. A., K. H. Price and M. P. Bell: 1998, ‘Beyond Relational Demography: Time and the Effects of Surface and Deep-Level Diversity on Work Group Cohesion’, Academy of Management Journal 41(1), 96-107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Hermalin, B. and M. Weisbach: 2003, ‘Boards of Directors as an Endogenously Determined Institution: A Survey of the Economic Literature’, Economic Policy Review 9(1), 7-26.Google Scholar
  46. Hill, C. W. L. and S. A. Snell: 1988, ‘External Control, Corporate Strategy, and Firm Performance in Research-Intensive Industries’, Strategic Management Journal 9(6), 577-90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Hillman, A. J. and A. A. Cannella: 2007, ‘Organizational predictors of women on corporate boards’, Academy of Management Journal 50(4): 941-952.Google Scholar
  48. Hillman, A. J., A. A. Cannella and I. C. Harris: 2002, ‘Women and Racial Minorities in Boardroom: How do Directors Differ?’, Journal of Management 28(6), 747-763.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Hitt, M. A., R. E. Hoskisson, R. A. Johnson and D. D. Moesel: 1996, ‘The Market for Corporate Control and Firm Innovation’, Academy of Management Journal 39(5), 1084-1119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Hitt, M. A. and B. B. Tyler: 1991, ‘Strategic Decision Models: Integrating Different Perspectives’, Strategic Management Journal 12(5), 327-351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Hodgkinson, G. P.: 2003, ‘The Interface of Cognitive and Industrial, Work and Organizational Psychology’, Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology 76(1), 1-24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Hoffman, L. R.: 1959, ‘Homogeneity of Member Personality and its Effect on Group Problem Solving’, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 58(1), 27-32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Hoffman, L. R. and N. R. F. Maier: 1961, ‘Quality and Acceptance of Problem Solutions by Members of Homogeneous and Heterogeneous Groups’, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 62(2), 401-407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Huse, M.: 2005, ‘Accountability and Creating Accountability: A Framework for Exploring Behavioural Perspectives of Corporate Governance’, British Journal of Management 16(1), 65-79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Huse, M.: 2007, Boards, Governance and Value Creation: the Human Side of Corporate Governance (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Huse, M.: 2009, The Value Creating Board: Corporate Governance and Organizational Behaviour (Routledge, London and New York).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Huse, M., A. Minichilli and M. Shoning: 2005, ‘Corporate Boards as Assets for Operating in New Europe. The Value of Process-Oriented Boardroom Dynamics’, Organizational Dynamics 34(3), 285-297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Huse, M., S. T. Nielsen and I. M. Hagen: 2009, ‘Women and Employee Elected Board Members, and Their Contributions to Board Control Tasks’, Journal of Business Ethics 89(4), 581-597.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Huse, M. and A. G. Solberg: 2006, ‘Gender Related Boardroom Dynamics: How Women Make and Can Make Contributions on Corporate Boards’, Women in Management Review 21(2), 113-130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Janis, I. L.: 1982, Groupthink (Houghton-Mifflin, Boston).Google Scholar
  61. Kanter, R. M.: 1977a, Men and Women of the Corporation (Basic Books, New York).Google Scholar
  62. Kanter, R. M.: 1977b, ‘Some Effects of Proportions on Group Life’, American Journal of Sociology 82(5), 965-990.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Kanter, R. M.: 1983, The Change Masters (Simon and Schuster, New York).Google Scholar
  64. Kanter, R. M.: 1987, ‘Men and Women of the Corporation Revisited’, Management Review 76(3), 14-16.Google Scholar
  65. Kimberly, J. R. and M. J. Evanisko: 1981, ‘Organizational Innovation: The Influence of Individual, Organizational, and Contextual Factors on Hospital Adoption of Technological and Administrative Innovations’, The Academy of Management Journal 24(4), 689-713.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Konrad, A. M., V. W. Kramer and S. Erkut: 2008, ‘Critical mass: The impact of Three or More Women on Corporate Boards’, Organizational Dynamics 37(2), 145-164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Latané, B.: 1981, ‘The Psychology of Social Impact’, American Psychologist 36(4), 343-356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Loden, M.: 1985, ‘Feminine Leadership or How to Succeed in Business Without Being One of the Boys’ (Times Books, New York).Google Scholar
  69. Maass, A. and R. D. Clark: 1984, ‘Hidden Impact of Minorities: Fifteen Years of Minority Influence Research’, Psychological Bulletin 95(3), 428-450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Mainiero, L. A.: 1994, ‘On breaking the Glass Ceiling: The political seasoning of powerful women executives’, Organizational Dynamics 22(4), 5-20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Mairesse, J. and P. Mohnen: 2001, ‘To be or not to be Innovative: An Exercise in. Measurement’, STI Review 27(1), 103-128.Google Scholar
  72. Mansbridge, J.: 2005, ‘Quota Problems: Combating the Dangers of Essentialism’, Politics and Gender 1(4): 622-638.Google Scholar
  73. McNulty, T. and A. Pettigrew: 1999, ‘Strategists on the Board’, Organization Studies 20(1), 47-74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Mezias, S. J. and M. A. Glynn: 1993, ‘The Three Faces of Corporate Renewal: Institution, Revolution, and Evolution’, Strategic Management Journal 14(2), 77-101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Miller, T. and M. C. Triana: 2009, ‘Demographic Diversity in the Boardroom: Mediators of the Board Diversity–Firm Performance Relationship’, Journal of Management Studies 46(5), 755-786.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Morbey, G. K.: 1988, ‘R&D: Its Relationship to Company Performance’, Journal of Product Innovation Management 5(3), 191-200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Nemeth, C. J.: 1986, ‘Differential Contributions of Majority and Minority Influence’, Psychological Review, 93(1), 23-32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Nemeth, C. and J. Kwan: 1985, ‘Originality of Word Associations as a Function of Majority vs. Minority Influence’, Social Psychology Quarterly 48(3), 277-282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Nemeth, C.J. and J. Wachtler: 1983, ‘Creative Problem Solving as a Result of Majority and Minority Influence’, European Journal of Social Psychology 13(1), 45-55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Nielsen, S. and M. Huse: 2010a, ‘The Contribution of Women on Boards of Directors: Going Beyond the Surface’, Corporate Governance: An International Review 18(2), 136-148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Nielsen, S. and M. Huse: 2010b, ‘Women Directors’ Contribution to Board Decision-Making and Strategic Involvement: The Role of Equality Perception’, European Management Review 7(1), 16-29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Nystrom, H.: 1980, Creativity and Innovation (Wiley, New York).Google Scholar
  83. Paton, R. and L. Dempster: 2002, ‘Managing Change from a Gender Perspective’, European Management Journal, 20(5), 539-548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Powell, G. N.: 1993, Women and Men in Management (Newbury, Park, CA).Google Scholar
  85. Pugliese, A., P. Bezemer, A. Zattoni, M. Huse, F. A. J. Van den Bosch and H.W. Volberda: 2009, ‘Board of Directors’ Contribution to Strategy: A Literature Review and Research Agenda’, Corporate Governance: An International Review 17(3), 292-306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Rasmussen, J. L. and M. Huse: 2011, ‘Corporate Governance in Norway: Women Directors and Employee Elected Board Members’, in C. Mallin, International Corporate Governance (Elgar, Cheltenham), pp. 121-146.Google Scholar
  87. Ravasi, D. and A. Zattoni: 2006, ‘Exploring the Political Side of Board Involvement in Strategy: A Study of Mixed-Ownership Institutions’, Journal of Management Studies 48(3), 1672-1704.Google Scholar
  88. Robinson, G. and K. Dechant: 1997, ‘Building a Business Case for Diversity’, Academy of Management Executive 11(3), 21-25.Google Scholar
  89. Scherer, F. M.:1984, Innovation and Growth, Schumpeterian Perspectives (MIT Press, Massachusetts).Google Scholar
  90. Selby, C.C.: 2000, ‘From Male Locker Room to Co-ed Board Room: A Twenty-Five Year Perspective’, in Burke, R. and M. C. Mattis (eds), Women on Corporate Coards of Directors: International Challenges and Opportunities (Kluwer, Dordrecht), pp. 239-251.Google Scholar
  91. Singh, V., S. Vinnicombe and P. Johnson: 2001, ‘Women Directors on Top UK Boards’, Corporate Governance: An International Review 9(3), 206-216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Singh, V., S. Vinnicombe and S. Terjesen: 2006, ‘Women Advancing onto the Corporate Board’, in Bilimoria, D. and K. S. Piderit (eds.) Handbook on Women in Business and Management Edward (Elgar, UK), pp. 304-329.Google Scholar
  93. Stiles, P. and Taylor, B. 2001, Boards at Work: How Directors View Their Roles and Responsibilities (Oxford University Press: Oxford).Google Scholar
  94. Tanford, S. and S. Penrod: 1984, ‘Social Influence Model: a Formal Integration of Research on Majority and Minority Influence Processes’, Psychological Bulletin 95(2), 189-225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Teece, D., G. Pisano and A. Shuen: 1997, ‘Dynamic Capabilities and Strategic Management’, Strategic Management Journal 18(7), 509-533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Terjesen, S., R. Sealy and V. Singh: 2009, ‘Women Directors on Corporate Boards: A Review and Research Agenda’, Corporate Governance: An International Review 17(3), 320-337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Watson, W.E., K. Kumar and L. K. Michaelson: 1993, ‘Cultural Diversity’s Impact on Interaction Process and Performance: Comparing Homogeneous and Diverse Task Groups’, Academy of Management Journal 36(3), 590-602.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Westphal J. D. and L. P. Milton: 2000, ‘How Experience and Network Ties Affect the Influence of Demographic Minorities on Corporate Boards’, Administrative Science Quarterly 45(2), 336-398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Williams, K.Y. and C.A. O’Reilly: 1998, ‘Demography and Diversity in Organizations: A Review of 40 Years of Research’, in Staw, B. M. and L. L. Cummings (eds.), Research in Organizational Behavior (JAI Press, Greenwich), pp. 77-149.Google Scholar
  100. Zahra, S. A.: 1996, ‘Governance, Ownership, and Corporate Entrepreneurship: The Moderating Impact of Industry’, Academy of Management Journal 39(6), 1713-1735.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  101. Zahra, S. A. and D. M. Garvis: 2000, ‘International Corporate Entrepreneurship and Firm Performance: the Moderating Effect of International Environmental Hostility’, Journal of Business Venturing 15(5-6), 469-492.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  102. Zahra, S.A., D.O. Neubaum and M. Huse: 2000, ‘Entrepreneurship in Medium-Size Companies: Exploring the Effects of Ownership and Governance Systems’, Journal of Management 26(5), 947-976.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  103. Zahra, S. A. and J. A. Pearce: 1989, ‘Boards of Directors and Corporate Performance: A Review and Integrative Model’, Journal of Management 15(2), 291-334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  104. Zahra, S. A. and J. A. Pearce: 1990, ‘Determinants of Board of Directors’ Strategic Involvement’, European Management Journal 8(2), 164-173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  105. Zahra, S.A. and W.W. Stanton: 1988, ‘The Implications of Board of Directors’ Composition for Corporate Strategy and Value’, International Journal of Management 5(2), 229-236.Google Scholar
  106. Zaltman, G., R. Duncan and J. Holbek: 1973, Innovations and Organizations (Wiley, New York).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mariateresa Torchia
    • 1
  • Andrea Calabrò
    • 1
  • Morten Huse
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Business StudiesUniversity of Rome “Tor Vergata”RomeItaly
  2. 2.BI Norwegian School of ManagementOsloNorway

Personalised recommendations