Women Directors and Board Dynamics: Qualitative Insights from the Boardroom

Margarethe F. Wiersema*, Marie Louise Mors

*Corresponding author for this work

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Despite increasing attention to gender diversity on corporate boards, we have only limited understanding of what occurs within the boardroom when women are present. Prior empirical research has used various theories to infer how board gender diversity may influence firm outcomes, but without identifying the theoretical mechanisms underlying women directors’ influence on the board. To address this gap, we conducted interviews with women and men who have collectively served as directors with over 200 publicly listed companies in the United States and Europe. While prior research has suggested that the diverse cognitive perspectives women directors bring influence board decision-making, our study reveals novel insights as to the underlying mechanisms. Specifically, we contribute to the board gender diversity literature with the finding that women behave in ways contrary to existing board norms. By coming to board meetings highly prepared, being willing to acknowledge that they do not know something, asking questions, and getting things on the table, women impact the dialogue and interactions in the boardroom. Thus, our study sheds light on how the presence of women influences board dynamics, which has implications for corporate governance. Our findings also challenge prevailing gender theories as to how women are likely to behave, in that we do not find that women conform to gender stereotypes. Yet, we also find impediments to women directors’ ability to gain influence, in that men directors may not always acknowledge them or afford them respect as equal board members.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Management
Number of pages39
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 04 June 2023


  • Corporate governance
  • Board of directors
  • Board dynamics
  • Board gender diversity
  • Qualitative study

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