Another research report on the topic of women on boards has just been published. This one was completed by Prof. Judith Zaichkowsky of Simon Fraser University in Canada. You can read the full report in the June 2014 issue of International Journal of Business Governance and Ethics (*), or read the headline findings here. Amongst other findings, Zaichkowsky found the boards with even one woman rated more highly than those with no female directors. This confirms a trend that was first noticed a decade or so ago.
The most interesting part of the report for me was the means by which it was conducted and the scope of the findings. The study was based on the statistical analysis of a number of variables of interest. I don't doubt the validity of the results. However, the thing to keep in mind with statistical analyses is that they can only show, at best, correlations—which is exactly what Zaichkowsky achieved.
Knowing that mixed-sex boards can and often do have higher corporate governance ratings is helpful. However, there is an elephant in the room. The killer question is to understand why mixed-sex boards rate more highly, so that other boards can learn and apply the knowledge to their own situation. I doubt the answer has much to do with gender per se. Women do something different in the boardroom or they bring something different to the discussion, I suspect. That different thing appears to be valuable, so I would love to know what it is!
My suggestion to researchers thinking about tackling the "why" question is to get inside some boardrooms and observe what actually happens. That's what I did for my research (to explain how boards can influence performance outcomes). If you'd like to discuss how to achieve this, please contact me, I'd be very happy to exchange ideas, and to outline about how I went about the challenge of gaining access.
(*) The original article is available from the IJBGE website, for a fee.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and effective board practice; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.