The Danger of Difference: Tensions in Directors’ Views of Corporate Board Diversity
40 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2013 Last revised: 26 Dec 2014
Date Written: April 23, 2013
This Article describes the results from fifty-seven interviews with corporate directors and a limited number of other persons (including institutional investors, search firm personnel, and the like) regarding their views on corporate board diversity. It highlights numerous tensions in these views. Most directors, for instance, proclaim that diverse boards are good, but very few directors can articulate their reasons for this belief. Some directors have suggested that diverse boards work better than non-diverse boards, but gave relatively few concrete examples of specific instances where a female or minority board member made a special contribution related to that director’s race or gender. Many directors noted the importance of collegiality and getting along in the boardroom, while simultaneously extolling the advantages of different perspectives in avoiding group think. Although all acknowledged the importance of fitting in, few considered whether this impeded the role of “outsiders” providing a diverse perspective. This Article also explores directors’ thoughts on why progress in improving board diversity has been so slow if most agree that diversity is an important goal.
Keywords: boards of directors, corporate boards, diversity, race, gender, ethnography, qualitative research
JEL Classification: K22, K00, K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation