All on Board? New Evidence on Board Gender Diversity from a Comprehensive Panel of Firms
AbstractThere are more men by the name of John among executive managers in firms listed on NYSE than all women taken together. Low presence of women on management and supervisory boards has long been a debated issue, with some countries implementing dedicated policies to raise participation of women in top management. Literature has so far identified two stylized facts: women are unicorns among top managers and supervisory board members; and there is no evidence that female management is associated with weaker firm performance. However, most of the studies base on small and non-representative samples.
We provide an overview of gender board diversity in Europe, using an exceptional database of nearly 20 million firms from 44 countries and over two decades. We develop a novel approach to gender attribution, based on linguistic heuristics and names of individual board members. Hence, we encompass data from 1990s onwards. We document substantial country and industry heterogeneity and slowly improving time trends.
We show that women on supervisory boards actually reduce the likelihood that a woman is on a management board. In fact, as much as 90% of European corporations have no women on supervisory boards, whereas only roughly 80% of them have no women on management boards. We also show that more gender equality at a country level is not conducive to greater gender board diversity and provide several institutional economics explanations for that pattern.