Women on Corporate Boards of Directors
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Women on Corporate Boards of Directors

International Research and Practice

Edited by Susan Vinnicombe, Val Singh, Ronald J. Burke, Diana Bilimoria and Morten Huse

This important new book addresses the growing international interest in women on corporate boards of directors.
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Chapter 18: Critical Mass: Does the Number of Women on a Corporate Board Make a Difference?

Sumru Erkut, Vicki W. Kramer and Alison M. Konrad


18. Critical mass: does the number of women on a corporate board make a difference? Sumru Erkut, Vicki W. Kramer and Alison M. Konrad INTRODUCTION In individualistic societies people tend to attribute the causes of failure to personal shortcomings, and recipes for success often focus on how individuals can acquire desirable personal qualities. Myriad self-help and leadership books exhort would-be leaders to make themselves over. Women who are interested in joining corporate boards are encouraged to attend special training sessions for aspiring women directors. Academic scholarship has long challenged individualistic explanations of leadership effectiveness. The current consensus is that leadership is better understood as a system of interacting elements which include the leader, the followers, and the situation in which the leader and followers are dynamically embedded (see Avolio, 2007). The situational variations studied in academic research have included value differences in leadership settings, the culture of the organizations, the nature of the leadership tasks, and the characteristics of the followers (see Vroom and Jago, 2007). Our research focuses on a much simpler, more concrete situational factor: gender composition of corporate boards. In this chapter we present data from a study on women corporate board members that demonstrate the importance of numbers in how women leaders view themselves and, more importantly, how others view them in ways that affect women’s ability to exert influence as leaders. Vroom and Jago (2007, p. 17) point out that all definitions of leadership share the view that ‘leadership...

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