Women in the Boardroom: Symbols or Substance?

Women in the Boardroom: Symbols or Substance?

By Charles A. O’Reilly, Brian G.M. Main
2012Working Paper No. 2098

The central argument for increasing the number of women on corporate boards of directors has been the so-called business case for diversity which proposes that women and minorities add valuable new perspectives that result in enhanced corporate performance. Unfortunately, the empirical evidence for this claim is mixed, leading some researchers to suggest that women outsiders are appointed for symbolic rather than substantive reasons. Using a sample of more than 2,000 firms over the period 2001-2005, we examine the effects of women outside directors on firm performance and CEO compensation. We find no evidence that adding women outsiders to the board enhances corporate performance. We do find some evidence that male CEOs with higher levels of compensation are more likely to appoint women outsiders and that boards with more women outside members are more generous in paying the CEO. We interpret these results as consistent with the appointment of women outsiders for normative rather than profit-enhancing reasons.

Keywords
boards, ceo compensation, corporate governance