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The moderating effect of innovation on the gender and performance relationship in the outset of the gender revolution

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The presence of women on boards of directors has become a social and economic demand. The relation between their presence on the board of directors and improved firm performance has already been studied. This paper aims to shed light on this topic by providing the first test as to how the level of innovation in the company may moderate this relationship. Our results, for a panel data of 231 European listed firms and based on GMM analysis, show that a critical mass of women positively affects firm performance, and that this effect increases as the firm’s innovation activity increases. We situate the analysis in the outset of the gender revolution in the Western countries to understand the nature of the gender equality process.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    Pucheta-Martínez et al. (2018) report that female institutional directors on boards enhance corporate performance, but when they reach a certain threshold on boards (11.72%), firm value decreases. Besides, pressure-resistant female directors on boards also increase firm value, but only up to a certain figure (12.71% on boards), above which they have a negative impact on firm performance. These findings are consistent with an inverted U-shaped relationship between female institutional directors and pressure-resistant female directors and firm performance.

  2. 2.

    On the other hand, Vithessonthi and Racela (2016), on a sample of non-financial companies listed on US stock markets from 1990 to 2013, find that the level of expenditure on R&D is negatively associated with operational performance, and also find a clear negative effect of R&D intensity on ROS (return on sales) for high-intensity R&D firms, but not for firms with low investment in R&D.

  3. 3.

    Although not reported here, we repeated the estimations controlling for the industry effect, and the results do not vary significantly.


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The authors acknowledge the funding received from the Projects ECO2015-63880-R & ECO2015-69058-R from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Spain). This work is also partially supported by the Research Grants SA049G19 (Junta de Castilla y Leon).

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Correspondence to Laura Cabeza-García.

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Cabeza-García, L., Del Brío, E.B. & Rueda, C. The moderating effect of innovation on the gender and performance relationship in the outset of the gender revolution. Rev Manag Sci (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11846-019-00367-y

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  • Board of directors
  • Critical mass of women
  • Performance
  • Innovation

JEL Classification

  • O16
  • M14
  • P17
  • Q55