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Diversity at the top should not simply focus on meeting the numbers

"Diversity at the top should not simply focus on meeting the numbers but also making the numbers count. It is important for corporations to create the right environment so as to reap the benefits of gender-diverse boards.

"When companies are coerced into appointing women on boards, there is a risk that female directors will continue to face gender-related obstacles. Very often women who are appointed to boards to meet quota requirements have claimed that they are stigmatised and it is common for their ideas to be ignored or swept aside.

"Occasionally, male directors promote a hostile board environment by failing to consider the suggestions of female directors or treat them with respectful collegiality. If gender-diverse boards are not properly managed, they may not only create distrust and dissatisfaction but fail to benefit from uncommon or minority voices, resulting in lower levels of innovation and competitiveness.

"It may not be enough for companies to simply appoint women to board positions in response to external pressures. Rather they should ensure that the appointment of female directors is also having a meaningful impact on the business.

"Research evidence suggests that women bring a novel set of perspectives to the boardroom and have a unique style of engagement which focuses on seeking the opinions of others and attempting to reach a consensus. This can facilitate better boardroom dialogue and decision-making.

"While significant progress has been made over the last few years to help women advance to senior ranks within business, the marginalisation of women in the business world is still a problem that needs to be addressed. Prior research has shown that women who succeed in typically male tasks such as leadership positions are more disliked and derogated, implying that women confront obstacles in work settings that are not encountered by men to the same degree

"Broadening the composition of corporate boards can serve business interests as it helps in expanding perspectives at the top and recognising the needs of diverse stakeholders. Although most corporations realise the value of including directors with different types of educational or professional expertise, they often neglect the importance of gender diversity."

Shainaz Firfiray, Assistant Professor of HR & Organisation at Warwick Business School. Dr Firfiray's work focuses on social identity, gender and work-life balance.

Dr Firfiray

For further details please contact Nicola Jones, Communications Manager, University of Warwick 07824 540863 or