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More Than A Woman: Insights into Corporate Governance After the French Sex Quota

Tue, 06/16/2015 - 15:56

In 2011, France enacted a Corporate Board Quota to establish a forty percent floor for either sex on corporate boards. Existing literature presumes that women will change the way firms function and that their presence in upper management will improve both governance and financial returns. To assess the potential impact of the quota, we interviewed twenty-four current and former corporate board members. Our analysis of these interviews generates two findings. First, our results indicate that, at least in the view of board members, the sex quota has had an impact on the process of board decision-making, but adding women has not affected the substance of decision-making. Second, our findings suggest for the first time that adding women to a board may well have a substantive impact on decision-making, not because the newly added members are women but rather because they are more likely to be outsiders. French participants reported that newly added female members affected substantive decision-making because they were more likely to be foreign, to be expert in a wider range of areas, and to be drawn from non-elite networks than their male counterparts.

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