Although the literature on corporate governance and firm innovation finds that board independence is important, this paper proposes that the presence of independent directors alone is not enough to explain their impact on firm innovation. This study analyses if diversity among independent directors may affect the relationship between board independence and firm innovation.
A panel data on a sample of 124 Spanish listed companies for the period 2008–2019 used to test the hypotheses.
Results suggest that independent directors have a negative effect on firm innovation, measured as number of patents, but when there are high levels of gender and nationality diversity among such directors, this negative effect may be mitigated.
Considering that firm innovation is a complex process associated with decision-making and that board independence itself may be not enough, this study goes a step further and delves deeper into the characteristics of independent directors. As far as is known, this paper is the first theoretical and empirical study that considers that independent director diversity as a moderating variable between board independence and firm innovation. Besides, this research contributes to the debate on the role of independent directors in firm innovation and the results may also serve as a guideline for policy makers and firms for structuring boards that are pro-innovation.
Funding: The study was funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation (Award number: PID2019-105140RB-I00).
Sierra-Morán, J., Cabeza-García, L. and González-Álvarez, N. (2022), "Independent directors and firm innovation: the moderating role of gender and nationality diversity", European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJIM-12-2021-0621
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