Companies that are serious about corporate governance and business ethics are turning their attention to gender diversity at the most senior levels of business (Institute of Business Ethics, Business Ethics Briefing 21:1, 2011). Board gender diversity has been the subject of several studies carried out by international organizations such as Catalyst (Increasing gender diversity on boards: Current index of formal approaches, 2012), the World Economic Forum (Hausmann et al., The global gender gap report, 2010), and the European Board Diversity Analysis (Is it getting easier to find women on European boards? 2010). They all lead to reports confirming the overall relatively low proportion of women on boards and the slow pace at which more women are being appointed. Furthermore, the proportion of women on corporate boards varies much across countries. Based on institutional theory, this study hypothesizes and tests whether this variation can be attributed to differences in cultural settings across countries. Our analysis of the representation of women on boards for 32 countries during 2010 reveals that two cultural characteristics are indeed associated with the observed differences. We use the cultural dimensions proposed by Hofstede (Culture’s consequences: International differences in work-related values, 1980) to measure this construct. Results show that countries which have the greatest tolerance for inequalities in the distribution of power and those that tend to value the role of men generally exhibit lower representations of women on boards.
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Several other prominent organizations confirm the imbalance of women on boards worldwide and the wide variation between countries. The Corporate Gender Gap Report of 2010, published by the World Economic Forum, presents the results of a survey of more than 3,400 companies including the 100 largest employers in each of the 30 member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), together with Brazil, Russia, and China. The 2010 European Board Diversity Analysis, prepared by Egon Zehnder International, analyzes data on 340 of the largest companies (market capitalization of more than EUR 4 billion) across 17 European countries. The report of Lord Davies of Abersosch, published on February 24, 2011 and commissioned by the United Kingdom government, examines the current situation of the FSTE 350 boards and gives its conclusion after wide consultation with various interested parties.
BoardEx is a business intelligence service providing data concerning the board of directors and senior management of public and large private companies. It is mainly used by institutional investors, wealth managers, and consultants but more and more as a source for academic research. The BoardEx database holds in-depth profiles of over 500,000 of the world's business leaders. BoardEx was established originally in 2001 by Management Diagnostics Ltd in the UK and has since grown to North America and Asia.
We used the same sample except for Belgium and Luxemburg which were removed because the GLOBE study did not cover these countries.
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The second and third authors gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Grant No. 410-03-1046), the Institute for Governance in Public and Private Organizations and, respectively, the CGA Professorship in Strategic Financial Information and the Stephen A. Jarislowsky Chair in Governance. The authors are also grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments.
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Carrasco, A., Francoeur, C., Labelle, R. et al. Appointing Women to Boards: Is There a Cultural Bias?. J Bus Ethics 129, 429–444 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-014-2166-z