Institutional Complementarities and Gender Diversity on Boards: A Configurational Approach

22 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2016

See all articles by Michela Iannotta

Michela Iannotta

University of Rome I

Mauro Gatti

Università La Sapienza

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: July 2016


Manuscript Type. Empirical.

Research Question/Issue. To address the lack of a complementarities‐based approach in studies of board diversity, this paper seeks to understand whether and how certain country‐level factors are causally and jointly related to women on boards and the nature of their complementarities (are they synergic or substitutes?). Moreover, we intend to learn more about the adoption/diffusion of board gender quotas, by taking into account their role in the existing national configurations (whether they are necessary and/or sufficient conditions).

Research Findings/Insights. Using fs/QCA, our findings reveal a particular configuration of country‐level conditions that supports the existence of a joint causal relation between given institutional arrangements. Furthermore, we find that board gender quota legislation is not a sufficient condition on its own to achieve a higher number of women on boards. Such evidence suggests that its diffusion across countries could be the result of institutional isomorphism or social legitimacy more than to rational reasons.

Theoretical/Academic Implications. For scholars, our paper refines and expands insights from the extant comparative corporate governance literature. By finding support for the “bundled” or jointly causal nature of given institutional factors, we open a window for further research that investigates board‐level phenomena in a complementarities‐based perspective.

Practitioner/Policy Implications. For policy makers, this study provides some insights that could better drive their choice about which mix of policies is necessary to improve female representation on boards, and especially in which institutional areas they should be implemented. It is particularly relevant, because once gender quotas are endorsed at board level, they could have ambiguous effects on firm performance and corporate governance.

Keywords: Corporate Governance, Configurational Approach, Qualitative Comparative Analysis, Women on Boards

Suggested Citation

Iannotta, Michela and Gatti, Mauro and Huse, Morten, Institutional Complementarities and Gender Diversity on Boards: A Configurational Approach (July 2016). Corporate Governance: An International Review, Vol. 24, Issue 4, pp. 406-427, 2016, Available at SSRN: or

Michela Iannotta (Contact Author)

University of Rome I ( email )

Piazzale Aldo Moro, 5
Rome, 00185

Mauro Gatti

Università La Sapienza ( email )


Morten Huse

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

P.O. Box 580
N-1302 Sandvika

MH Management Consultants ( email )

Butterudveien 32
N 1339 Vøyenenga


University of Witten/Herdecke ( email )

Alfred-Herrhausen-Straße 50
Witten, 58448

BI Norwegian Business School ( email )

Nydalsveien 37
Oslo, 0442

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