The economics of board diversity
The past decade has seen an increasing interest in the issue of board gender diversity around the world. Accompanying this interest is a global debate over the justifications behind board gender diversity. This debate stems from conflicting results of previous studies that overemphasise the relationship between board gender diversity and accounting performance measures. It is also attributable to a lack of empirical evidence on moral justifications for board gender diversity, especially how board gender diversity affects gender issues in the workplace. Filling these gaps in the prior literature is, therefore, necessary to provide a better understanding, which may eventually help to clarify the debate on the merits of board gender diversity. This thesis aims to empirically examine the theorised benefits of board gender diversity from both an economic and a moral perspective. In particular, this thesis seeks to answer the question of whether a business case for board gender diversity exists from the perspective of market valuation. The thesis also investigates whether gender diversity of the board leads to fairer opportunities for all employees in the workplace. To address these issues, I conduct three research projects with the following objectives: (1) to comprehensively analyse the reaction of stock market investors to announcements of female director appointments and resignations; (2) to examine the relationship between gender diversity at board level and gender diversity at managerial and non-managerial levels of the workplace; and (3) to investigate the effect of board gender diversity on a firm’s commitment to workplace gender equality with respect to talent identification, promotions and training and development – as well as the resulting impact on employees’ productivity. My findings suggest that there are strong economic and moral justifications for board gender diversity. In particular, this thesis shows that board gender diversity does matter to stock market investors because they consistently react to female director appointments and resignations. I also show that board gender diversity can be justified from a moral perspective as it leads to diversity at lower workplace levels. Evidence also suggests that board gender diversity positively affects firms’ commitment to maintaining a gender-equitable working environment, which eventually results in higher productivity among employees. Overall, the results of this thesis contribute to understanding the benefits of diversifying boards’ gender composition amidst increasingly global interest. It also provides policy-setters with novel and convincing evidence on which to build gender-related regulations for business environments.