City Research Online

Women directors on corporate boards: A review and research agenda

Terjesen, S., Sealy, R. & Singh, V. (2009). Women directors on corporate boards: A review and research agenda. Corporate Governance, 17(3), pp. 320-337. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8683.2009.00742.x


Manuscript Type: Conceptual (Review)

Research Question/Issue: This review examines how gender diversity on corporate boards influences corporate governance outcomes that in turn impact performance. We describe extant research on theoretical perspectives, characteristics and impact of women directors on corporate boards (WOCB) at micro, meso and macro levels: individual, board, firm and industry/environment.

Research Finding/Insights: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first comprehensive review of WOCBs, incorporating and integrating research from over 400 publications in psychology, sociology, leadership, gender, finance, management, law, corporate governance and entrepreneurship domains. In addition, we organized our findings to provide a new lens enabling the field to be readily examined by level and by theoretical perspective. The review indicates that WOCB research is about improving corporate governance through better use of the whole talent pool’s capital, as well as about building more inclusive and fairer business institutions that better reflect their present generation stakeholders.

Theoretical/Academic Implications: With only one in ten papers addressing theoretical development, the predominant perspectives are human and social capital theories and gender schema at individual level; social identity, token and social networks theories at board level; resource dependency, institution and agency theories at firm level, and institutional, critical and political theories at environmental level. We provide a short synopsis of findings at each level, and conclude with an outline of fruitful directions for future research.

Practitioner/Policy Implications: There are increasing pressures for WOCBs, from diverse stakeholders such as the European Commission, national governments, politicians, employer lobby groups, shareholders, Fortune and FTSE rankings, best places for women to work lists as well as expectations from highly qualified women who are likely to leave if they see no women board members. Rationales generally draw on the business case, however the moral justice case is also used by those who seek a fairer gender balance in all aspects of society. From our review, the ‘Impact’ section charts the effect of WOCB at all four levels of analysis.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the accepted version of the following article: Terjesen, S., Sealy, R. and Singh, V. (2009), Women Directors on Corporate Boards: A Review and Research Agenda. Corporate Governance: An International Review, 17: 320–337., which has been published in final form at
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Related URLs:
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