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Human capital and professional network effects on women’s odds of corporate board directorships

Renuka Hodigere (HRM Group, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, Kolkata, India)
Diana Bilimoria (Department of Organizational Behavior, Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 5 October 2015



The purpose of this study is to examine the importance of human capital and professional networks for women’s and men’s appointment to the boards of directors of public companies. The study provides an in-depth analysis of how human capital and professional networks contribute to women’s as compared with men’s odds of corporate board membership.


The study analyzes the human capital and professional networks of 494 male and female corporate outside (non-executive) directors appointed between 2005 and 2010 to the boards of US public companies listed in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index. Human capital was measured as director age, education and professional experience (function and role). Professional network variables measured included composition of professional network, network centrality, constraint and cohesion.


The study’s findings reveal that the characteristics that impact the appointment of women as outside directors to public company boards differ from those of men. Relative to men, certain professions such as government relations and education improve the odds of appointment of women to corporate boards, while age lowers women’s odds. The number of network ties and the degree of network cohesion were also significant in predicting the likelihood of female board appointment to public corporations relative to men’s odds. The final model was able to predict female board membership correctly only in 28 per cent of the cases, while male board membership was predicted in 89 per cent of the cases, suggesting that factors other than human capital and professional networks (e.g. their gender) impact women’s appointment to corporate boards.


To the authors ' knowledge, this study is the first to comprehensively examine the professional network components of female and male directors along with their human capital in the analysis of their prospects for board appointment. The conceptualization of professional networks as well the depth of quantitative analysis of the network components of the study advance the extant literature on the composition of corporate boards.



Hodigere, R. and Bilimoria, D. (2015), "Human capital and professional network effects on women’s odds of corporate board directorships", Gender in Management, Vol. 30 No. 7, pp. 523-550.



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