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Women improve decision-making on boards, research shows

February 14, 2024

Women arrive highly prepared for a board meeting, ask in-depth questions and are willing to acknowledge that they don’t know a certain subject. This is the main conclusion of a study conducted by scholars Margarethe Wiersema and Marie Louise Mors, from the University of California and Copenhagen Business School respectively.

According to the article published in the Harvard Business Review, this behavior influences male colleagues, resulting in a discussion that is less political and more open to different points of view. By changing the dialog, they make the board less prone to “pluralistic ignorance”. This means, the authors say, that fewer things are swept under the carpet when women have an active voice.

Wiersema and Mors listened to board members from more than 200 open capital companies in the United States and Europe: “Our study challenges prevailing general assumptions about women in business. The fact that women serving on boards are willing to ask in-depth questions and engage with the issues reflects both autonomy and rationality, attributes stereotypically not attributed to women in the workplace,” they wrote.

On the other hand, “the confidential nature of board meetings and directors’ reluctance to convey what transpires in the boardroom means that we fail to fully understand whether and how the presence of women influences board dynamics and firm outcomes.”

Even so, the findings show that “women directors appear to be less worried about how they are perceived and less likely to adhere to board norms. Instead, they want the board to make the best possible decisions, period,” they conclude.

Source: Margarethe F. Wiersema, Marie Louise Mors | HBR