Do women help women in corporate Europe?
This year our EARHART project presented results on gender board diversity during ASSA in New Orleans. We were a part of a wonderful session with Francesca Truffa presenting a paper about MBA participants and network effects. In a carefully designed setting, Francesca and coauthors find that women who had higher share of women in their MBA group, have better career prospects. This paper speaks volumes to the so-called networking effect of MBA programs, but also shows how gender-sensitive these networks actually are. The second paper was the amazing seminar study presented by Alicia Modestino. In this paper, a group of 100+ coders participated in hundreds of seminars across economics departments around the US. They coded the behavior of the listeners for both men and women presenting in the seminars and find that women asked more questions during a seminar and the questions asked of women presenters are more likely to be patronizing or hostile. They further show that these differences are not due to women working on topics where seminar culture is more hostile (selection effects), neither are they driven by women being poorer presenters (speaker characteristics). In fact, they replicate the coding effort during the NBER Summer Institute, working across disciplines with the best scholars in the six fields of SI each year. And despite some chairs actually warning the participants that their behavior will be coded -- they still showed more hostility towards women speakers. This study speaks volumes to the other impactful paper of 2022, Yellin' at Yellen. Further, Shasha Wang talked about gender disparities in STEM majors and occupations, with a very fresh perspective on this topic. Leslie Sheng Shen gave a new perspective on asset channel to gender wage inequality. Last, but not least, Oluwasheyi Oladipo gave a talk about gender occupational segregation.
Our team presented the first version of our study on token women and public eye supervision in gender board diversity. In a widely cited studies Matsa and Miller (2011, 2013) argue that the presence of women on supervisory boards is conducive to greater gender diversity among top management. This result is consistent with a range of policy recommendations to legally mandate women’s presence of supervisory boards (currently 16 countries have such policies). Yet such studies focus on stock-listed companies, i.e. companies under public scrutiny. Meanwhile, majority of companies remain private both in a sense that supervisory boards positions are not subject to regulations on board diversity and in a sense that they remain beyond public scrutiny. Typically, studies rely on stock-listed companies and focus on identifying firm-level correlates of women share on management boards. A rich body of literature analyzes the stock-listed companies US, UK, France, Finland, Japan, Italy, and BRIC countries. By contrast to the existing literature, we utilize unique database of over 100 million firms in over the period of two decades across 44 advanced and emerging European countries and analyze the role of women on supervisory boards for management diversity. Admittedly, gender diversity for the board positions of private, non-listed companies remains off the radar of empirical analyzes.
Using this data and novel gender assignment, we document several stylized facts concerning gender board diversity. First, women are more prevalent in executive positions than in non-executive positions. In corporate Europe, women are absent 60% of the management boards and in roughly 70% of the supervisory boards. Second, both exhibit positive trends over time, but there remain substantial differences between countries. Our study provides two novel results. First, the positive spillovers from women on supervisory boards to gender diversity among management is limited to listed companies and does not exist for the non-listed companies. Paraphrasing, in contrast to the earlier evidence we find that women “do not help” women in corporate Europe. Specifically, we replicate the Matsa and Miller (2011, 2013) result for the stock-listed companies and show that for the private (non-listed) companies there is no link between gender diversity of among supervisory (non-executive) directors and diversity among top managers. Second, we show that even among the stock-listed firms, the earlier results are driven entirely by tokenization of women on boards: once we exclude the cases of boards with single women, also among the listed firms the spillovers on gender diversity are no longer identifiable. Hence, we show that raising gender diversity in management positions is not likely achieved through mandating diversity in supervisory (non-executive) boards and alternative instruments are necessary for reaching this policy objective.