Women Directors on Corporate Boards: From Tokenism to Critical Mass

19 Pages Posted: 6 Jun 2011 Last revised: 21 Mar 2013

See all articles by Mariateresa Torchia

Mariateresa Torchia

University of Rome, Tor Vergata

Andrea Calabrò

Witten Institute for Family Business - Witten/Herdecke University

Morten Huse

Norwegian School of Management (BI) - Department of Innovation and Economics; MH Management Consultants; University of Witten/Herdecke; BI Norwegian Business School

Date Written: February 25, 2011

Abstract

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

JEL Classification: M00

Suggested Citation

Torchia, Mariateresa and Calabrò, Andrea and Huse, Morten, Women Directors on Corporate Boards: From Tokenism to Critical Mass (February 25, 2011). Journal of Business Ethics, 102 (2), 299-317. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1858347

Mariateresa Torchia

University of Rome, Tor Vergata ( email )

Via di Tor Vergata
Lazio
Italy

Andrea Calabrò (Contact Author)

Witten Institute for Family Business - Witten/Herdecke University ( email )

Alfred-Herrausen-Straße 50
Witten, DE Dortmund 58448
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.uni-wh.de/universitaet/personenverzeichnis/details/show/Employee/calabro/

Morten Huse

Norwegian School of Management (BI) - Department of Innovation and Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 580
N-1302 Sandvika
Norway

MH Management Consultants ( email )

Butterudveien 32
N 1339 Vøyenenga
Vøyenenga
Norway

HOME PAGE: http://www.boardsandwine.net

University of Witten/Herdecke ( email )

Alfred-Herrhausen-Straße 50
Witten, 58448
Germany

BI Norwegian Business School ( email )

Nydalsveien 37
Oslo, 0442
Norway

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