Best labor economics conference ever
The annual EALE conference took place in the wonderful atmosphere of Uppsala this year. Barbara Petrongolo spent a lot of time and effort explaining how commute matters for gender differences in the labor market outcomes. Philip Kircher paid more attention to how moving to online with the job search creates opportunities for testing our theories, but also poses challenges to those theories.
We discussed our research on gender board diversity. Did you know that among New York Stock Exchange-listed firms’ executive managers, there are more less women altogether than men named John? This tendency is global, with men comprising the vast majority of corporate upper echelons, including directors of both management (e.g., employee) and supervisory (e.g., corporate entity) boards. Gender diversity on supervisory boards is frequently debated by policy makers, media, society, corporations, with ten countries implementing board gender quotas and more than twenty countries developing recommendations for gender diversity in corporate governance codes.
We develop a comprehensive database covering 20 years of public (e.g., stock-listed) and private (e.g., non-listed) firms from a wide selection of advanced and emerging economies on the European continent. Our sample includes over 100 million person-year observations for supervisory and management board directors, and covers a substantial share of output and employment in the analyzed countries. We leverage institutional and resource dependency theories to explore how women’s representation in supervisory and management boards is shaped by country and industry factors. This theorizing builds on a rich comparative corporate governance literature of how institutional environments shape outcomes.
Our study offers several contributions to the existing literature. First, we measure the prevalence of women in management and supervisory boards over a long period and comprehensively across public and private firms. We describe country, sector, and time patterns of gender diversity for both management and supervisory boards, documenting stylized facts which were previously unknown in the corporate governance literature. In corporate Europe, there are no women on 70% of the management boards and roughly 60% of the supervisory boards. We revisit the research agenda on the barriers to board diversity, exploring whether more gender equal countries have more women on management and supervisory boards in both public and private firms. We find substantial differences between public and private firms, such that country-level characteristics can exhibit positive correlations with prevalence of women on boards for the former and negative for the latter. This is particularly important as country-level gender board diversity studies are less common than micro-level studies, and offers implications for institutional and resource dependency theories. Our third contribution is identifying important differences between management and supervisory boards even within the same group of firms. Fourth, we answer calls for more comparative corporate governance research with our multi-country study moves beyond the single-country studies that dominate the literature. Taken together, our findings also answer calls for replication and extension.