Innovating Inclusion: The Impact of Women on Private Company Boards

70 Pages Posted: 9 May 2019

See all articles by Jennifer S. Fan

Jennifer S. Fan

University of Washington - School of Law

Date Written: April 10, 2019


Eight percent — that is the percentage of women who serve on the boards of directors of private high technology companies. Private companies, particularly high technology companies, have transformed citizens’ daily lives, while the unprecedented availability of private capital has allowed those companies to remain private longer. This rise, however, has also obscured some of the weaknesses of private companies, which are not subject to public disclosure and regulatory oversight: rampant sexual harassment, the lack of women leaders in technology companies, the relative absence of female venture capitalists, and the dearth of female board members, to name a few. Yet thus far, legal scholarship on gender diversity on corporate boards has focused almost exclusively on public companies, overlooking the stark lack of women in the vastly wealthy and influential sector of private capital. This Article documents the exclusion of women from the boards of nearly all the major private high technology companies currently influencing American business, and it explains why this male-only hegemony matters. It then offers a new paradigm, the innovation imperative, for creating a business culture in which people of all genders can make valued contributions. This Article analyzes two potential arenas for change: the legal and business realms. It concludes that a combination of legal and business reforms, such as adding inclusion riders to contracts and rethinking certain hiring and networking practices, would pave the way for progress in getting more women on boards.

Keywords: corporate governance, board of directors, private companies, women, gender diversity, technology industry, business, entrepreneurs, startups, implicit bias, business culture, innovation, Rooney rule, unicorn

Suggested Citation

Fan, Jennifer S., Innovating Inclusion: The Impact of Women on Private Company Boards (April 10, 2019). Florida State University Law Review, Vol. 46, No. 2, Pp. 345-413, 2019, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Jennifer S. Fan (Contact Author)

University of Washington - School of Law ( email )

William H. Gates Hall
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98105-3020
United States
(206) 685-2636 (Phone)


Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics