Does Critical Mass Matter? Views From the Boardroom

34 Seattle University Law Review 1049-1080 (2011)

32 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2011 Last revised: 26 Dec 2014

Lissa L. Broome

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - School of Law

John M. Conley

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - School of Law

Kimberly D. Krawiec

Duke University School of Law

Date Written: June 3, 2011

Abstract

In this Article, we report and analyze the results of forty-six wide-ranging interviews with corporate directors and other relevant insiders on the general topic of whether and how the racial, ethnic, and gender composition of corporate boards matters. In particular, we explore their views on the concept of “critical mass” — that is, the theory that women and racial or ethnic minorities are unlikely to have an impact in the boardroom until they grow from a few tokens into a considerable minority of the board.

In contrast to other recent qualitative research on corporate boards, we find more limited support among our respondents for critical mass theory. Though some female respondents expressed the view, consistent with critical mass theory, that having more women on the board increased their comfort level and eased some of the stresses associated with being the first and only female, this narrative is in tension with our respondents’ apparent embrace of their first and only status. Moreover, with the possible exception of employee relations, our interviews largely fail to support the theory that a critical mass of female directors will produce different, and distinctly feminine, boardroom outcomes.

Keywords: board diversity, race, gender, critical mass

JEL Classification: K00, K22

Suggested Citation

Broome, Lissa L. and Conley, John M. and Krawiec, Kimberly D., Does Critical Mass Matter? Views From the Boardroom (June 3, 2011). 34 Seattle University Law Review 1049-1080 (2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1781064

Lissa L. Broome

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States
919-962-7066 (Phone)
919-962-1277 (Fax)

John M. Conley

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States
919-962-8502 (Phone)

Kimberly D. Krawiec (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

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