Women on Corporate Boards: Key Influencers or Tokens?

Journal of Management and Governance, November 2010

21 Pages Posted: 2 Jan 2011 Last revised: 13 Nov 2012

See all articles by Beate Elstad

Beate Elstad

Oslo University College

Gro Ladegard

Oslo School of Management

Date Written: November 20, 2010


This article investigates how an increased ratio of women directors on corporate boards is associated with board processes, specifically the women's participation and contributions on the board. Drawing on tokenism theory, we propose that the social barriers predicted in tokenism theory are smaller when the ratio of women increases on a board. The hypotheses are tested in a sample of 458 women on Norwegian boards with the ratio of women ranging from 11% to 100%.

The results show that women on corporate boards experience that they receive more information and engage more in informal social interaction when the ratio of women increases. Furthermore, each woman's perceived influence increases as the ratio of women increases. However, women with token or minority status do not seem to experience conformity pressure, as self-censorship is stable and very low for all levels of the women ratio on corporate boards.

The study contributes to the development of theories concerning women on corporate boards. From a resource dependence perspective, it is important to gain knowledge about how board diversity contributes to board performance. We show that tokenism theory is relevant for studying the contributions of women on a board, and further development of this theory is recommended.

The study is conducted after the implementation of the quota law of 40% gender representation was completed in Norway. Thus, it informs policy makers about the important effects of including more women on corporate boards. Our results indicate that the benefits from gender diversity on a board depend on the ratio of women on the board, although these benefits seem to materialize also for lower ratios than 40%.

Keywords: Corporate Governance, Gender Minority, Board of Directors, Tokenism

Suggested Citation

Elstad, Beate and Ladegard, Gro, Women on Corporate Boards: Key Influencers or Tokens? (November 20, 2010). Journal of Management and Governance, November 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1582368

Beate Elstad

Oslo University College ( email )

Pilestredet 35
Oslo, 0557

Gro Ladegard (Contact Author)

Oslo School of Management ( email )

0047 92408441 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.groladegard.no

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