Women Directors on Corporate Boards: From Tokenism to Critical Mass [Book Review]

Journal of Business Ethics 102 (2):299-317 (2011)
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
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DOI 10.1007/s10551-011-0815-z
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Paul Dunn & Barbara Sainty (2005). The Changing Composition of Canadian Boards of Directors. Proceedings of the International Association for Business and Society 16:230-233.

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