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Tokenism or realism? Gender inclusion in corporate boards

Arunima Haldar (Department of Finance, S P Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai, India)
Sumita Datta (Department of Organization Behavior, S P Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai, India) (Interdisciplinary Centre for Gender Studies (ISCSP), University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal)
Snehal Shah (Department of Organization Behavior, S P Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai, India)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 16 March 2020

Issue publication date: 21 July 2020




The paper investigates how the interplay of women-specific human and social capital factors with ownership structure impacts her chances to get director level appointment in the light of recent amendments to the Indian statute.


The strength of the study lies in fitting a logistic regression model to the unique hand collected data on women director characteristics from 100 large listed Indian firms.


Counter intuitive findings reveal negative effects of social capital on appointment of independent women directors. This relationship gets reversed when social capital is moderated by ownership structure.

Social implications

Companies may be influenced to take into cognizance the underlying gender biases prevailing in the highest echelons of management and employ un-gendered fair selection practices for board level appointments in order to progress towards gender balanced corporate boards.


The paper is a first of its kind that combines aspects of human capital and ownership structure using Indian data. By developing several new proxy variables to enrich the construct of social capital it contributes to the corporate governance literature and lastly, through main and interaction effects, the paper offers a deeper understanding about the impact of endogenous factors of corporate boards on women's representation at leadership levels in India.



The authors thank Eddy Ng, Faith Ngunjiri and Alain Klarsfeld and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments that improved the manuscript.


Haldar, A., Datta, S. and Shah, S. (2020), "Tokenism or realism? Gender inclusion in corporate boards", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 39 No. 6, pp. 707-725.



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