Fifty years ago it was nearly impossible to find women in executive leadership positions. Now, nearly half of the labor force is female. 51 percent of management and professional occupations are held by women. Yet, women hold only about 17 percent of corporate board seats. Despite positive changes over the years and rhetoric supporting the advancement of women in business leadership roles, over the last decade, there is meager evidence of significant progress in U.S. corporate boardrooms.
A woman is most likely to be appointed to a corporate board when a fellow woman departs, according to a forthcoming study in the Industrial Labor Relations Review. This “gender-matching” tendency can thwart efforts to diversify the board room, because the actual composition of the board is difficult to change.
The study, “Gender Diversity on U.S. Corporate Boards: Are We Running in Place?,” is authored by Catherine Tinsley, a professor of management at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business and faculty director of the Georgetown University Women’s Leadership Institute, with co-authors James Wade of George Washington University, Brian G.M. Main of University of Edinburgh, and Charles A. O’Reilly of Stanford University. To move the needle on gender parity in the board room, the study suggests that the number of women in the candidate pool needs to be increased.
The research has been featured in Quartz, The Chicago Tribune, and New America. To learn more about Tinsley’s research, visit http://msb.georgetown.edu/newsroom/news/musical-chairs-gender-diversity-us-corporate-boards.