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Florence Villesèche

Research Findings

It takes more than a ‘body count’ to make diversity matter on corporate boards

December 21, 2023

Corporate boards shape strategy and decision-making, rendering their composition highly consequential. Such boards have been, and still are, predominantly composed of individuals from similar demographic backgrounds – notably white men. This is an issue, as homogeneity is known to lead to groupthink, and suggests that some needed talent is excluded from the board room.

Calls for diversity, notably gender diversity, grow louder, and some countries have legal targets or quotas. Corporate boards, not least in large, publicly-traded firms in the Global North where power and money concentrate, are thus in the hot seat. However, research findings are mixed when it comes to the outcomes of having more diversity on boards.

In a recent study of corporate board diversity, our starting rationale was that simply adding more ‘diverse directors’ to the mix wouldn’t necessarily translate into them having influence – and indeed, we found that increasing the ‘diversity count’ by adding women or foreign directors doesn’t inherently reshape the power dynamics in the corporate elite.

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