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Getting Women on to Corporate Boards

Getting Women on to Corporate Boards

A Snowball Starting in Norway

Edited by Silke Machold, Morten Huse, Katrin Hansen and Marina Brogi

This book provides unique insights into how the idea of quota laws to get women on to corporate boards gained international momentum from its origins in Norway. Invaluable insights are gained through the stories of actors involved in shaping the discourse and practice on women of boards.

Chapter 15: Women on boards: what we know, what we do not yet know and how we should further advance knowledge

Katrin Hansen

Subjects: business and management, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, gender and management


Two recent developments have prompted researchers to investigate the phenomenon of women on boards and associated dynamics and outcomes in boardrooms. On the one hand, there has been an intense political, economic and social discourse on women on boards, resulting in the introduction of quota laws and other formal devices in some countries. On the other hand, there has been increased public interest in corporate governance as a result of the 2008 crisis, associated with an awareness of ethical dilemmas and weaknesses in solving those in large firms’ management and the subsequent debate on corporate social responsibility. This formed the background against which scholars that had been invited to the 2011 Think Tank on women on boards presented their insights, conclusions and suggestions. Before I introduce the contributions from these scholars, a short overview is given on the recent developments in the field of research on women on boards. To structure the field I use three different lenses. First, I distinguish two perspectives from which boards and especially women on boards are approached and outcomes evaluated. Those are ethical– moral considerations and the business perspective. Second, I discuss the respective features of quantitatively oriented and qualitatively oriented studies and their interplay. Third and finally, I differentiate three levels that constitute the foci of investigations, namely the macro level (society, economics), the meso level (corporations, boards), and the micro level (individuals, micro-foundations), and suggest further research that involves multi-level designs. Two distinct perspectives of approaching the women on boards phenomenon can be identified:

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