Sub-theme 31: Gender, Governance and Organizations

Morten Huse
Witten/Herdecke University, Germany, & BI Norwegian Business School, Norway
Anja Kirsch
Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
Heike Mensi-Klarbach
Leibniz University Hannover, Germany, & WU Vienna, Austria

Call for Papers

The underrepresentation of women in senior management positions and, in particular, on corporate boards is an area of increasing concern and significance for managers, policy makers, the media, and scholars (Fagan et al., 2012, Vinnicombe et al., 2008). Even more, we are presently facing a broadly articulated consensus that such underrepresentation of women is unacceptable (Terjesen & Sealy, 2016). Hence, various forms of regulation, ranging from voluntary firm-level targets aimed at increasing the proportion of women in management to mandatory quotas for the gender composition of boards, have been introduced in several countries (De Vos & Culliford, 2014).
The salience of the issue of women’s underrepresentation in the upper echelons of organizations has allowed research on both women on boards and on women in management to develop profoundly. Research on women on boards has identified macro-, meso- and micro-level factors that enable or constrain women’s access to boards (Gregorič et al., 2015; Hillman et al., 2007; Sheridan et al., 2014), has examined the prevalence, characteristics, opinions and experiences of women directors (Hillman et al., 2002; Jonsdottir et al., 2015, Nielsen & Huse, 2010), and has shown that boards’ gender composition affects various organizational outcomes (Matsa & Miller, 2011; Post & Byron, 2015, Torchia et al., 2011).
Meanwhile, research on women in management and leadership has dealt with a broader range of issues such as promotions and new hires (Cohen & Broschak, 2013; Mavin, 2008), leadership styles and gendered stereotypes (Billing, 2011; Rudman & Phelan, 2008; Vinkenburg et al., 2011), backlashes from doing gender in management (Mavin et al., 2014), managerial identities and gendered discourses (Ashcraft, 2013; Ford, 2010), homosociality (Holgersson, 2013), and role incongruity between gender and leadership roles (Bosak & Szensny, 2011; Eagly & Karau, 2002). Surprisingly, however, these two strands of research – gender in management and women on boards – have remained rather distinct.
In this sub-theme we welcome both empirical and conceptual contributions that further our understanding of the underrepresentation of women in upper echelons, and we are particularly interested in papers that bridge the two strands of literature discussed above. In aiming to generate new knowledge, we encourage contributors to address important questions, to draw on alternative theoretical approaches or combine theories that have rarely been combined, and to use innovative methods and different types of data.
Relevant research questions could include – but are not limited to – the following:

  • National level: How do statutory regulation and soft-law differ in their effects? How are national discourses surrounding women on boards and in senior management changing? What drives and hinders national policy regarding gender equality in management and boards?
  • Organizational level: What is the effect of the gender composition of boards and management on organizational legitimacy? Are there differences between different types of organizations? What drives organizations to increase female representation on boards and in management, respectively? How do organizations cope with legally binding gender quotas? What organizational discourses can be observed regarding women in management and on boards?
  • Board/TMT level: Do mixed gender boards and top management teams behave differently than all-male ones? How do board diversity and diversity in management relate? How do power differentials among board/TMT members relate to gender? What factors influence female employee representatives’ election to boards?
  • Individual level: How do women directors’ and managers’ careers compare to those of men? How does women’s and men’s experience on boards and in TMTs change when they become gender-balanced?



  • Ashcraft, K.L. (2013): “The Glass Slipper: ‘Incorporating’ Occupational Identity in Management Studies.” Academy of Management Review, 38 (1), 6–31.
  • Billing, Y.D. (2011): “Are Women in Management Victims of the Phantom of the Male Norm?” Gender, Work and Organization, 18 (3), 298–317.
  • Bosak, J., & Sczesny, S. (2011): “Exploring the Dynamics of Incongruent Beliefs about Women and Leaders.” British Journal of Management, 22 (2), 254–269.
  • Cohen, L.E., & Broschak, J.P. (2013): “Whose Jobs Are These? The Impact of the Proportion of Female Managers on the Number of New Management Jobs Filled by Women versus Men.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 58 (4), 509–541.
  • De Vos, M., & Culliford, P. (eds.) (2014): Gender Quotas for Company Boards. Cambridge: Intersentia.
  • Eagly, A.H., & Karau, S.J. (2002): “Role Congruity Theory of Prejudice Toward Female Leaders.” Psychological Review, 109 (3), 573–598.
  • Fagan, C., González Menèndez, M.C., & Gómez Ansón, S. (eds.) (2012): Women on Corporate Boards and in Top Management: European Trends and Policy. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Ford, J. (2010): “Studying Leadership Critically: A Psychosocial Lens on Leadership Identities.” Leadership, 6 (1), 47–65.
  • Gregorič, A., Oxelheim, L., Randøy, T., & Thomsen, S. (2015): “Resistance to Change in the Corporate Elite: Female Directors’ Appointments onto Nordic Boards.” Journal of Business Ethics, online first.
  • Hillman, A.J., Cannella Jr, A.A., & Harris, I.C. (2002): “Women and Racial Minorities in the Boardroom: How Do Directors Differ?” Journal of Management, 28 (6), 747–763.
  • Hillman, A.J., Shropshire, C., & Cannella Jr, A.A. (2007): “Organizational Predictors of Women on Corporate Boards.” Academy of Management Journal, 50 (4), 941–952.
  • Holgersson, C. (2013): “Recruiting Managing Directors: Doing Homosociality.” Gender, Work & Organization, 20 (4), 454–466.
  • Jonsdottir, T., Singh, V., Terjesen, S., & Vinnicombe, S. (2015): “Director Identity in Pre- and Post-Crisis Iceland: Effects of Board Life Stage and Gender.” Gender in Management, 30 (7), 572–594.
  • Matsa, D.A., & Miller, A.R. (2011): “Chipping away at the Glass Ceiling: Gender Spillovers in Corporate Leadership.” American Economic Review, 101 (3), 635–639.
  • Mavin, S. (2008): “Queen Bees, Wannabees and Afraid to Bees: No More 'Best Enemies' for Women in Management?” British Journal of Management, 19, S75–S84.
  • Mavin, S., Grandy, G., & Williams, J. (2014): “Experiences of Women Elite Leaders in Doing Gender: Intra-gender Micro-violence between Women.” British Journal of Management, 25 (3), 439–455.
  • Nielsen, S.T., & Huse, M. (2010): “The Contribution of Women Directors: Going beyond the Surface.” Corporate Governance: An International Review, 18 (2), 136–148.
  • Post, C., & Byron, K. (2015): “Women on Boards and Firm Financial Performance: A Meta-Analysis.” Academy of Management Journal, 58 (5), 1546–1571.
  • Rudman, L.A., & Phelan, J.E. (2008): “Backlash Effects for Disconfirming Gender Stereotypes in Organizations.” Research in Organizational Behavior, 28, 61–79.
  • Sheridan, A., Ross-Smith, A., & Lord, L. (2014): “Institutional Influences on Women's Representation on Corporate Boards: An Australian Case Study.” Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, 33 (2), 140–159.
  • Terjesen, S., & Sealy, R. (2016): “Board Gender Quotas: Exploring Ethical Tensions From a Multi-Theoretical Perspective.” Business Ethics Quarterly, forthcoming.
  • Torchia, M., Calabro, A., & Huse, M. (2011): “Women Directors on Corporate Boards: From Tokenism to Critical Mass.” Journal of Business Ethics, 102 (2), 299–317.
  • Vinkenburg, C.J., van Engen, M.L., Eagly, A.H., & Johannesen-Schmidt, M.C. (2011): “An Exploration of Stereotypical Beliefs About Leadership Styles: Is Transformational Leadership a Route to Women’s Promotion?” Leadership Quarterly, 22 (1):´, 10–21.
  • Vinnicombe, S., Singh, V., Burke, R.J., Bilimoria, D., & Huse, M. (2008): Women on Corporate Boards of Directors: International Research and Practice. Cheltenham: E. Elgar.
Morten Huse holds a Chair of Management, Business Ethics and Societal Change Witten/Herdecke University, Germany, and is Professor of Organization and Management at BI Norwegian Business School. His work about value creating boards and women on boards is published widely. His book “Boards, Governance and Value Creation: The Human Side of Corporate Governance” (Cambridge, 2007) is considered to be pathbreaking. For more than a decade he as has also organized annual retreat research workshops on these topics. Morten has been President of EURAM and had various offices in other scientific associations. He has been affiliated with several universities, including Bocconi, Tor Vergata, Federico II in Italy, Lund, Hanken and Nordland in Scandinavia.
Anja Kirsch is a post-doctoral research fellow at Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. She is the Principal Investigator for the project “BOARDEQUALITY: Women in the Boardroom: Institutional and Organizational Approaches to Gender Equality” funded by the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme for Research. Her research interests include corporate governance, leadership and corporate social responsibility, as well as institutional approaches to employment relations and human resource management. Her work has been published in ‘International Journal of Human Resource Management’, ‘European Journal of Industrial Relations’ and ‘Industrielle Beziehungen’.
Heike Mensi-Klarbach is Guest Professor for Gender and Diversity at Leibniz University Hannover, Germany, and Lecturer at WU Vienna, Austria. Her research focuses on gender and diversity in organizations and particularly in top management teams and boards. The question of women on boards is present in many of her past and current research projects. Recently she worked on a project funded by the European Commission (Progress): “Women are top! To the top with innovative organization culture”. Currently, she is co-editing a book on “Gender Diversity in the Boardroom: European Perspectives on Increasing Female Representation” at Palgrave.