Although there is a paucity of female corporate directors in Canada, women are slowly managing to break the gender barrier of all-male boards of directors. Using resource dependency theory a model is developed that identifies the human capital characteristics that contribute to a woman being appointed to an all-male board. The model is tested on a sample of 193 Canadian firms that appointed women to their boards of directors between 1996 and 2004. The results show that women who are appointed to all-male boards have specialized knowledge skills; either they have firm-specific knowledge as insiders, or they are support specialists with a specific financial or legal expertise.
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The argument here is that women add legitimacy to a board of directors and thereby to the firm. After the first woman is appointed to the board, subsequent female appointments may be based on alternative resource needs of the firm, other than legitimacy.
Branson (2007) notes that many women who were appointed to U.S. boards simply classified themselves as consultants. They did not highlight their specialized skills.
A study by Peterson and Philpot (2007) of female corporate directors of Fortune 500 firms in 2002 had a sample of 525 women who held 731 directorships, or 1.39 seats per woman. So the Canadian results are not dissimilar to the American statistics.
In Canada there is no limit to the number of years an individual can serve on a board of directors.
These results are similar to those of Peterson and Philpot (2007) who found that, for their sample of female corporate directors on American firms in 2002, 39.1 percent were business managers and only 6.0 percent were insiders.
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This paper has benefited from the helpful comments made by the editor of this journal and three anonymous reviews, conference participants at the annual meetings of the Academy of Management, the International Association for Business and Society, the American Accounting Association, as well Barbara Sainty, Lori Ryan, Phil Cochran, and Ann Buchholtz. Research assistance was provided by Rylan Cotrell, Melanie Steele, and Sarah King.
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Dunn, P. Breaking the boardroom gender barrier: the human capital of female corporate directors. J Manag Gov 16, 557–570 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10997-010-9161-2
- Boards of directors
- Resource dependency
- Human capital