The ‘Gender Gap’ policy, with its purpose to increase the number of women up to 30% in top positions on the workforce, has been reached in Dutch governmental organizations (note: not in business life). Now what? It’s not that all of a sudden we have become more he for she; or less á la ‘Devil wears Prada’ phenomena. This blog serves as an introduction to a research paper focusing on what the influence is of institutions on gender perceptions on the workforce.
Studies on gender diversity with respect to corporate boards have greatly multiplied in recent years. To touch upon this issue; the corporations that rank to the 2014 Fortune 1000 lists contain for 5,3 percent women that hold a CEO position (Catalyst, 2014). However, according to the European Commission (EC hereafter) there has been a rise of the number of women on board positions 18,6 percent since October 2013 (17,8 percent) (EC, April 2014). From an institutional perspective, the increase appears to be a consequence of the proposed legislation by the EC to foster a balance in the underrepresentation of the female sex in the top. The goal thereof was to attain 40 percent women in non-executive board positions in publicly listed corporations (EC, 2012). On the contrary, a major Dutch telecom corporation (KPN, 2014) announced two years ago that they will cease their adopted women’s quota policy. According to KPN, one of the main motives was:
‘The women were similar in terms of capabilities and behaviour as the males who already were on the board – including their shortcomings.’
This is a classical example of the Queen Bee syndrome, where women in higher positions suppress other women. Subsequently, the KPN quota created an entrance disruption towards highly educated male individuals with an ethnic background.
Elaborating further regarding the former motive; Ryan and Haslam (2005) concluded that leadership effectiveness of women characterized by masculine and traditional competences is often lower evaluated than from the opposite sex. In fact, behaving too ‘feminine’ is proven to be punished by neglecting women’s promotion (Branson, 2006). Accordingly, the same study revealed that women were appointed to a leadership position in a context of downturn (i.e. financial and in organizational performance) as part of a strategy to regain trust among shareholders. The results of the study demonstrated an increase in performance after appointing a woman. Adams and Ferreira (2009) investigated the effect of gender diversity on governance and firm performance and interestingly found that women behave differently than male directors. Subsequently, other studies suggest that women overcompensate their feminine attributed behaviours and consequentially take more risks than men (Adams & Funk, 2012). To touch upon another recent example concerning Apple and Facebook: these lead organization announced to offer female employees an opportunity to freeze their eggs, in order to attract more women (The guardian, 2014).
Altogether, the main claim of the attached research paper is that the prior mentioned mechanisms are in part derived from perceptions affected by stereotypical norms, values, beliefs (i.e. institutions) which subsequently both affect the appointment of board members. It serves as a review that focuses on gender related diversity aiming to investigate the following question:
What is known about institutional factors affecting the perception of gender and subsequently the composition of corporate boards?