To increase the share of women in the top management of companies, legal gender quotas are increasingly being introduced worldwide. Their effect, however, especially on perceived diversity and employer attractiveness, remains unknown. The purpose of this study is to investigate how a gender quota for a company’s executive board affects potential employees’ evaluation of that company as an employer. Drawing on signaling theory and the rationale of diversity attraction, the authors assumed that both the gender composition of a company’s board and the presence of a quota send signals regarding specific factors associated with diversity (i.e. perceived diversity climate, perceived internal motive for gender diversification and perceived competencies of board members). The authors postulated that these signals are perceived by job applicants and used to evaluate the attractiveness of the company as an employer.
In a scenario study, the authors manipulated the composition of the management board. That is, participants were presented an executive board that was either homogeneously male (Group 1) or had a female representation of 30% (Groups 2 and 3) or 50% (Group 4). The executive board in Groups 3 and 4 was subject to a statutory gender quota of 30%.
The results showed that a company with a gender-diverse board was perceived as more attractive by potential applicants than an all-male board. Also, a gender quota did not reduce a company’s employer attractiveness. The results suggest that potential applicants attach importance to board diversity but place less value on the causes that led to it.
Against the backdrop of the war for talent, this study contributes to a better understanding of the impact of gender quotas and factors influencing employer attractiveness. The study showed that when a gender quota is in place, applicants assume to a lesser extent that a company staffs its gender-diverse board of directors out of an inner conviction. Nonetheless, the presence of a gender quota does not significantly reduce the perceived diversity climate, nor does a quota have a negative impact on the employer attractiveness. Thus, using a quota as a means to increase gender diversity does not harm the ends.
Philipp Schäpers and Henrik Heinemann would like to thank the State of North Rhine-Westphalia’s Ministry of Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalization, and Energy as well as the Exzellenz Start-up Center-NRW program at the REACH – EUREGIO Start-Up Center for their kind support of his work. The authors thank Celeste Brennecka for proofreading the manuscript.
Schäpers, P., Stolte, T. and Heinemann, H. (2022), "On the influence of gender quotas on the employer attractiveness of companies – Do the means harm the ends?", Gender in Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/GM-05-2022-0181
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