Board Diversity Revisited: New Rationale, Same Old Story?

33 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2011

See all articles by Lisa M. Fairfax

Lisa M. Fairfax

George Washington University - Law School

Date Written: April 25, 2011


Recently, board diversity advocates have relied on market- or economic-based rationales to convince corporate America to increase the number of women and people of color in the boardroom, in lieu of moral or social justifications. This shift away from moral or social justifications has been deliberate, and it stems from a belief that corporate America would better respond to justifications that centered on the corporate bottom line. However, recent empirical data reveals that despite the increased reliance on, and apparent acceptance of, market- or economic-based rationales for board diversity, there has been little change in actual board diversity. This Article argues that the relative stagnation in board diversity can best be attributed to diversity advocates’ overemphasis on the importance of business rationales for diversity, coupled with their failure to acknowledge or otherwise bolster the importance of social and moral justifications for board diversity efforts. As a result, this Article not only concludes that business justifications may be insufficient, at least standing alone, to advance board diversity, but also insists that diversity advocates must pay greater attention to the role of social and moral justifications in the effort to diversify the corporate boardroom.

Keywords: corporate boards, corporate governance, board diversity, board fiduciary duty

JEL Classification: G30, K20, K22

Suggested Citation

Fairfax, Lisa M., Board Diversity Revisited: New Rationale, Same Old Story? (April 25, 2011). North Carolina Law Review, Vol. 89, p. 854, 2011; GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 554; GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 554. Available at SSRN:

Lisa M. Fairfax (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States
202-994-4630 (Phone)


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