Journal of International Business Studies

, Volume 45, Issue 9, pp 1170–1178 | Cite as

Linguistic gender marking and its international business ramifications

  • Estefania Santacreu-Vasut
  • Oded Shenkar
  • Amir ShohamEmail author
Research Note


We analyze the impact of language-based gender distinctions within languages’ grammatical structures on women’s corporate presence. Using four different data sets, we find that countries where the dominant language marks gender more intensely have significantly lower female participation on boards of directors and in senior management, as well as smaller female-led corporate teams. We also find that the gender marking of the language used in the headquarters’ home country impacts female presence on the subsidiary boards of multinational companies, independently of gender marking in the language of the host country. Our findings suggest that linguistic gender marking offers a superior alternative to the commonly used aggregate values-based measures of culture, and that its research usage should be expanded accordingly. Underpinning this proposed expansion is the very stable nature of language-based gender distinctions, which are inherited from the distant past, and the direct influence of language on cognition via the shaping of the mental representation of social reality. The findings also reinforce the need to view language design as a vital strategic, as well as operational, tool for multinational companies.


language gender marking culture logistic regression grammatical structure 



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Copyright information

© Academy of International Business 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Estefania Santacreu-Vasut
    • 1
  • Oded Shenkar
    • 2
  • Amir Shoham
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.ESSEC Business School and THEMACergyFrance
  2. 2.Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  3. 3.Fox School of Business, Temple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  4. 4.College of Management Academic StudiesRishon LeZionIsrael

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