- Lone Engbo Christiansen, Huidan Lin, Joana Pereira, Petia Topalova, and Rima Turk
- Published Date:
- March 2016
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Computed based on European Commission data (http://ec.europa.eu/justice/gender-equality/gender-decision-making/database/business-finance/executives-non-executives/index_en.htm). The corresponding female ratio is 16 out of 100 for top executive positions.
This is an illustrative exercise, which assumes that the population and unemployment rate of both genders as well as the male labor force participation rate and number of hours worked for men will remain constant. This exercise also abstracts from the cohort dimension of participation gaps.
The goal of bringing greater gender equality at the higher rungs of the career ladder, along with the potential benefits this may bring, has prompted many countries to institute quotas for women on the boards of publicly listed companies. The EU has also called for actively recruiting qualified women to replace outgoing male board members (European Commission 2012).
The paper uses “individual choice” and “personal choice” interchangeably and acknowledges that personal choice may be the result of household decision.
When discussing firm financial performance in this paper, we use “industry” and “sector” interchangeably.
The significant increase in female participation in Spain is a result of the gradual incorporation of younger cohorts with a higher average participation rate into the labor market (Banco de España 2015).
For European countries, part-time work has been found to be more prevalent when fertility rates are higher, employment regulation is more favorable, and employment protection is stricter for permanent contracts. The share of the services sector in the economy and of young adults in tertiary education are also important determinants. Part-time work can also allow employers to adjust hours worked to cyclical conditions, although the responsiveness is higher for male workers (Buddelmeyer, Mourre, and Ward 2008). Finally, tax incentives to work part time also seem to have a significant effect on part-time participation rates (Thévenon 2013).
The statistics come from Eurostat, which covers the largest publicly listed companies in each country. Data on board members cover all members of the highest decision-making body in each company, which is typically either the supervisory board or the board of directors. Data on executives cover senior executives in the two highest decision-making bodies in each company.
The analysis relies on the Orbis database, compiled by Bureau van Dijk. The reported figure refers to the simple mean of the average share of women in senior positions in the 34 countries considered.
The structure of the economy also likely affects the level of female labor force participation through the expansion of sectors that have historically been much more likely to employ women, such as the services sector.
In countries where female labor force participation is already high, policies that act on how jobs are structured and remunerated may also be beneficial (Goldin 2014).
As noted in Christiansen and others 2016a, a causal interpretation of the correlations documented here is difficult. Policy changes may simply reflect changes in social norms and preferences, they may be put in place in response to the rise of female labor force participation, or they may be correlated with other factors that influence the decision by women to work but are not accounted for in our empirical framework. Similarly, women’s attitudes could be driven by their participation in the labor market rather than the reverse.
Female managers could be better positioned to serve consumer markets dominated by women (CED 2012; CAHRS 2011). Greater gender diversity would increase the heterogeneity in values, beliefs, and attitudes, which would broaden the range of perspectives (OECD 2012) and stimulate critical thinking (Lee and Farh 2004).
See Croson and Gneezy (2009) for a review of the literature on gender differences in preferences and other factors that might affect managerial style. McKinsey (2009) argues that certain leadership behaviors were seen more often in women than men; namely, people development, setting expectations and rewards, providing role models, and participative decision making.
Giuliano, Levine, and Leonard (2006) document large negative effects of demographic differences between managers and subordinates in terms of subordinates’ rate of quits, dismissals, and promotions.
Introducing the concept of identity in a model of economic behavior, Akerlof and Kranton (2000) argue that the utility of a person joining a group (for example, a firm) increases with the proportion of group members of the same social category. This would suggest that the benefits of gender diversity would rise with the share of women in the workforce.
Prat (2002) and Jehn, Northcraft, and Neale (1999) examine the role of sectoral characteristics, such as complexity of tasks, in shaping optimal labor diversity. Garnero, Kampelmann, and Rycx (2014) provide empirical evidence on the heterogeneous effects of workforce diversity across sectors in Belgium.
See Rhode and Packel (2014) for a survey of the literature on the gender composition of boards and financial performance.
For the purposes of this paper, we refer to “increased gender diversity” and “greater female representation” interchangeably as an increase in female representation from current levels will lead to increased gender diversity.
Studies that use the introduction of quotas for women on corporate boards as an exogenous source of variation to gender diversity understandably focus only on publicly listed companies, for which the legal requirement is binding (see, for example, Matsa and Miller 2013; Bertrand and others 2014).
In Christiansen and others (2016b), we look for the presence of nonlinearities between the share of women in senior positions and firm performance, and establish that indeed there is an inverted U-shaped relationship between the two, with the marginal return to raising female representation turning negative beyond a certain point.
Although female-employment-friendly policies can entail a fiscal cost in the short term, there would be long-term (fiscal) benefits through the support of women’s long-term attachment to the labor force, full-time employment, and, thereby, households’ income levels (which would be taxed).