Last year the European Union began advocating for a quota system that requires companies to appoint women to at least 40% of their board seats. According to the EU commissioner for justice and gender equality, Vĕra Jourová, advancing women on boards is “good for business.”
Many countries in Europe—including Norway, Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany—have already imposed national quotas to mixed effect. In the U.S., where women fill only about 20% of corporate director roles, there is little talk of quotas even among advocacy groups. Yet firms face growing pressure to appoint more women to the boards from policy makers, women’s rights advocates and even large investors.
There are many reasons to advocate for greater diversity on corporate boards. Many investors believe that women improve performance, enhance a firm’s reputation and contribute to creativity and innovation.
Yet little is known about the impact of gender diversity on the board on corporate policy and practice—especially when it comes to corporate social responsibility.
Compared to other workers, mothers face a number of disadvantages, including lower wages, bias in recruitment and promotion, and a greater risk of joblessness. These disadvantages may be more prevalent in professional jobs where ‘ideal worker’ norms are most salient. Professional employers tend to view mothers as less competent and committed than other workers—a major stigma in careers that require around-the-clock dedication.
These biases are so strong that employers often discriminate against mothers irrespective of their experience, skill or job commitment.
Our own research has shown that employers use a variety of strategies to shed, demote and otherwise marginalize professional mothers, including screening mothers out of the recruitment process or channeling them into positions with lower pay, prestige and responsibility.
But little is known about which kinds of professional jobs are better—or worse—for working mothers.
What role does job context play in shaping professional mothers’ access to highly skilled professional jobs? In a recent study we sought to answer this question. Our analysis drew on 51 in-depth interviews with employers in two professional sectors in Hungary: finance and business services. These two sectors allowed us to compare the ways job context shapes recruitment and hiring norms and practices.