What is it about?

In this paper we explore the historical dynamics of women's access to corporate boards in Argentina and Chile, a topic of research and of current societal implications missing in the existing literature regarding the factors that shape board gender composition and women's roles in business and corporate networks. We study the recruitment patterns and factors in comparative perspective in two Latin American countries to know what has influenced the inclusion of women on corporate boards over more than a century. The research focuses on the largest non-financial and financial companies in Argentina and Chile during the twentieth century and the early years of the twenty-first century. It analyzes a range of institutional, organizational, and individual factors that have facilitated or hindered women's access to these boards. The study reveals that despite differences in the corporate networks of the two countries, women's participation on corporate boards has consistently remained at the periphery of the network. They rarely hold central or influential positions and often serve on only one board.

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Why is it important?

The findings are significant because Argentina and Chile have not enforced regulations mandating minimum levels of board diversity during the period under analysis. The paper also explores the non-neutral decision-making processes related to women's recruitment as directors and emphasizes the historical and socially constructed nature of gender categories. It argues that cultural, social, and institutional barriers have been gradually decreasing, but the impact on women's access to corporate power elites has been indirect and not immediate. Additionally, the study uncovers the importance of family affiliation in women's access to corporate boards, particularly in family firms, until the 1960s. It also identifies the increasing professionalization and educational qualifications of women directors in non-family firms as factors that have created new opportunities for board positions in both countries. This research is important because of its contribution to the lack of historical studies about women's roles in corporate structures, particularly in the context of Argentina and Chile. This approach allows for a deeper understanding of the changes, fluctuations, and nonlinear patterns in women's inclusion on corporate boards. The comparative analysis of two non-European and non-U.S.-centered merging economies, Argentina and Chile, also provides with insights into how contextual factors shape gender diversity in corporate governance. Finally, our research has important implications for policy discussions surrounding board diversity and gender equality in corporate governance in both public and private sectors. Policymakers, organizations, and advocates seeking to promote greater gender diversity and inclusion in corporate leadership will learn of specific factors and issues to tackle to achieve gender equity.


The findings of this research highlight the significance of board diversity regulations in Argentina and Chile, shedding light on the historical and socially constructed barriers that women face in accessing corporate power. By examining the influence of family affiliation and educational qualifications, the study offers valuable insights into the changing landscape of women's inclusion in corporate boards. These findings have important implications for policymakers and organizations aiming to promote gender equality and diversity in corporate leadership, providing a roadmap for addressing specific factors and challenges in achieving gender equity.

Professor Erica Helena Salvaj
Universidad del Desarrollo

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Women may be climbing on board, but not in first class: A long-term study of the factors affecting women’s board participation in Argentina and Chile (1923–2010), Business History, April 2022, Taylor & Francis, DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2022.2063275.
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