Project Woman on boards

Woman on boards: Women in Corporate Governance Bodies: An Integrated Approach


The underrepresentation of women on corporate boards is an area of increasing relevance for policymakers, managers and other business stakeholders, scholars and the public in general. In Portugal, the debate is particularly timely due to the low representation of women on boards (WoB) and the legislative change that will take effect in January 2018 and introduce binding legal measures to promote gender balance on the boards of state-owned and listed companies. Despite the strides that women have made in terms of their investment in education and their relatively high labour market participation, they lack career advancement prospects, being underrepresented in management positions, particularly on the boards of companies (in 2016, they represented 8% of board members in the largest 500 companies, 14% in the largest listed companies, and 26% in state-owned companies).
This will be the first comprehensive study on WoB to be made in Portugal. It adopts an innovative integrative approach. Firstly, it is intended to enhance both theory and practice by integrating scientific contributions from the fields of sociology, gender studies, management and finance, and by employing mixed-research methods. Secondly, it seeks to adopt a triangular analytical perspective by looking into the macro, meso and micro levels. Thirdly, it is also intended to integrate inputs, processes and outcomes; in addition to the full characterisation of the profile of men and women on the boards of state-owned and listed companies (inputs), the project is designed to look into the social dynamics of the boardroom (processes) and the respective outcomes. As far as the processes are concerned, equality may be conceptualised according to multiple parameters, with the focus being on: the degree of equal influence exercised by male and female board members in relation to operational, monitoring and strategic issues, as well as in the definition of short and long-term corporate decisions; the opportunity to occupy executive positions, to assume the chair role and to take on prominent directorships; increasing social capital; and being remunerated on an equal basis (including in terms of variable earnings). As for the outcomes, the focus is on the extent to which an increasing share of WoB leads to a review of internal corporate policies, practices and processes, eliciting more gender-inclusive work organisation models and work cultures. A complementary focus will be on the market reactions to the new framework by using an event study methodology.
Finally, this study seeks to integrate theory, research, policy and practice, by institutionalising a forum for debate (a think tank), involving scholars, policymakers, representatives from gender equality bodies, key business actors and grass-root women’s organisations in evidence-based reflections on gender balance on boards and the impact on challenging gender stereotypes and sustaining gender-equality values in society.

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FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia

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