Does Board Gender Diversity Reduce Workplace Sexual Harassment?

54 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2020 Last revised: 29 Jun 2021

See all articles by Shiu-Yik Au

Shiu-Yik Au

University of Manitoba - Asper School of Business

Andreanne Tremblay

Université Laval - Département de Finance et Assurance

Leyuan You

Texas State University, San Marcos

Date Written: June 28, 2021

Abstract

We add to the debate regarding the merits of board gender diversity by considering its impact on the incidence of workplace sexual harassment (SH), possibly the most important remaining barrier to gender equality. We investigate whether board gender diversity contributes to a reduction in workplace sexual harassment, or whether firms engage in “fem-power washing”, that is, the successful, but false, use of gender-equality CSR policies for corporate branding, where the falseness of the claim originates from the lack of concrete actions implemented towards the proclaimed goal.

We estimate the incidence rate of SH through textual analysis of employees’ job reviews published online during the period 2011-2017. We find that firms with gender-diverse boards experience less SH: An increase of one female director is associated with a 20.71% decrease in SH. Firms with high board gender diversity do not engage in fem-power washing, but rather synchronize the reduction in SH with improved social policies. The positive social externalities associated with female directors also extend to others forms of female leadership: we find that firms led by female CEOs and firms with higher percentage of female executives also experience decreases in SH.

Lastly, our results are robust to several adjustments for endogeneity concerns. We use the proportion of male directors at the focal firm that participate in other boards with female directors as our instrument in instrumented regressions. We also use propensity score matching. Our results hold with all these techniques.

Keywords: sexual harassment, board of directors, gender diversity, female CEO, environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies

JEL Classification: G30, J16, M14

Suggested Citation

Au, Shiu-Yik and Tremblay, Andreanne and You, Leyuan, Does Board Gender Diversity Reduce Workplace Sexual Harassment? (June 28, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3667087 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3667087

Shiu-Yik Au (Contact Author)

University of Manitoba - Asper School of Business ( email )

181 Freedman Crescent
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 5V4
Canada
(204) 474-9783 (Phone)

Andreanne Tremblay

Université Laval - Département de Finance et Assurance ( email )

Pavillon Palasis-Prince
Quebec G1K 7P4
Canada

Leyuan You

Texas State University, San Marcos ( email )

601 University Drive
San Marcos, TX 78666-4616
United States
512-245-3215 (Phone)

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