Women's abilities to make fair decisions when competing interests are at stake make them better corporate leaders, researchers have found.
A survey of more than 600 board directors showed that women are more likely to consider the rights of others and to take a cooperative approach to decision-making. This approach translates into better performance for their companies.
The study, which was published this week in the International Journal of Business Governance and Ethics, was conducted by Chris Bart, professor of strategic management at the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University, and Gregory McQueen, a McMaster graduate and senior executive associate dean at A.T. Still University's School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona.
"We've known for some time that companies that have more women on their boards have better results," explains Bart. "Our findings show that having women on the board is no longer just the right thing but also the smart thing to do. Companies with few female directors may actually be shortchanging their investors."
Bart and McQueen found that male directors, who made up 75% of the survey sample, prefer to make decisions using rules, regulations and traditional ways of doing business or getting along.
Female directors, in contrast, are less constrained by these parameters and are more prepared to rock the boat than their male counterparts.
In addition, women corporate directors are significantly more inclined to make decisions by taking the interests of multiple stakeholders into account in order to arrive at a fair and moral decision. They will also tend to use cooperation, collaboration and consensus-building more often -- and more effectively -- in order to make sound decisions.
Women seem to be predisposed to be more inquisitive and to see more possible solutions. At the board level where directors are compelled to act in the best interest of the corporation while taking the viewpoints of multiple stakeholders into account, this quality makes them more effective corporate directors, explains McQueen.
Globally, women make up approximately 9% of corporate board memberships. Arguments for gender equality, quotas and legislation have done little to increase female representation in the boardroom, despite evidence showing that their presence has been linked to better organizational performance, higher rates of return, more effective risk management and even lower rates of bankruptcy. Bart's and McQueen's finding that women's higher quality decision-making ability makes them more effective than their male counterparts gives boards a method to deal with the multifaceted social issues and concerns currently confronting corporations.
The International Journal of Business Governance and Ethics is available online.
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