What is it about?

Using a large data set of individual directors in multiple countries, this is the first study examining how the passage of affirmative action programs enhances the inclusion of women directors by changing the role of networks in perpetuating gender disparity in board representation. We find that upon the passage of binding affirmative action programs, women derive more benefits from their network. However, this is not the case when non-binding programs are passed. These findings suggest the passage of binding affirmative action programs makes woman candidates with the right connections more visible than before and provide evidence of a level playing field in board representation. This study enhances our understanding of the consequences affirmative action programs have beyond their formal fulfillment.

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Why is it important?

We show that binding gender quotas can enhance the inclusion of women in corporate director networks and signal a level-playing field in achieving top management positions. Binding gender quotas appear to fuel the power of women's networks counterbalancing the long-lasting dominance of the old-boys' networks in board positions.


By raising awareness about the invisible challenges that qualified women face when trying to reach the top in the corporate world, and how board gender quotas can help address these challenges, we hope to promote greater understanding and support for policies that can help promote gender equality and diversity in the workplace.

Dr. Gabriela Contreras
Radboud Universiteit

It presents a compelling argument for why implementing binding gender quotas on corporate boards should be considered a policy measure to reduce the invisible barriers faced by qualified women in leadership. I hope that our work can make managers, policy makers and the public more likely to see binding gender quotas as an effective policy tool.

Dr. Katarzyna Burzynska
Radboud Universiteit

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Affirmative action programs and network benefits in the number of board positions, PLoS ONE, August 2020, PLOS, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0236721.
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