We’ve been to enough board meetings that look like those Miller Lite “Man Law” commercials to know that having more women on corporate boards is probably a good idea. But we’re a bit skeptical about this recent study sponsored by TIAA-CREF which claims to demonstrate that having three or more women on the board “enhances corporate governance.”
But before we get all grumpy about this, here’s a summary from the Conglomerate blog of what the study shows.
The study was based on interviews with 12 CEOs, 50 women directors, and seven corporate secretaries of Fortune 1000 companies. The study found that women impact board governance in at least three ways, (1) by bringing different perspectives into boardroom discussions, including the perspectives of multiple stakeholders, (2) raising difficult issues--that is the study found that difficult problems are less likely to be ignored when women are in the board room, and (3) by altering the dynamics in the board room to create more open and collaborative discussions, thereby allowing management to hear board concerns without feeling defensive.
Well, we suppose it’s nice that the women bring “different perspectives,” raise “difficult problems” and create “more open and collaborative discussions.” But what’s all this got to do with enhancing corporate governance? We’ve only read the executive summary, so maybe there’s harder data in the study than we’ve come across, but we can’t help but suspect that these things are themselves considered “enhanced corporate governance.” Because the way that phrase is used is often as a cover for promoting various political or social agendas rather than as finding better ways to deliver value to shareholders.
Critical Mass on Corporate Boards [pdf]