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The magic number: three women on the board

Ashley Salaiz (Department of Management, Sykes College of Business, The University of Tampa, Tampa, Florida, USA)
Leon Faifman (Department of Management, Sykes College of Business, The University of Tampa, Tampa, Florida, USA)

Journal of Business Strategy

ISSN: 0275-6668

Article publication date: 13 October 2023

165

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to unpack the progress of board gender diversity among the 3,000 largest US listed firms by market capitalization (i.e. Russell 3000 Index). This study extrapolates four classifications of firms based on the number of women in the boardroom: zero women, one or two women, three plus women and gender balanced. The purpose of this study is to examine where progress has and has not been made, why firms plateau and an agenda for the future.

Design/methodology/approach

This study first provides a summative overview of the literature on the benefits of board gender diversity. It then examines progress according to the four classifications, each of which have theoretical underpinnings for whether or not firms can reap the strategic benefits of gender-diverse boardrooms.

Findings

Several indices of US publicly traded companies now have women holding between 30% and 33% of the seats in the boardroom. By examining the spread of women on boards according to the four classifications, this study extrapolates three key insights: firms experiencing tokenism (i.e. one or two women in the boardroom) do not have enough women to reap the strategic benefits of diverse boardrooms; firms that have reached a critical mass (three women in the boardroom) are at an impasse and may risk plateauing; and gender-balanced firms are elevated to the status of being role models for other firms. Calls for action and associated action plans accompany these insights.

Practical implications

This study reminds managers and directors of the strategic benefits of gender-diverse boards and offers three critical insights that boards can use to classify what stage they are at on the path toward board gender equality. Based on their classification, calls for action and action plans offer guidance to firms.

Originality/value

This study shifts away from focusing on the average percentage of board seats held by women across all firms and offers new insights on the progress that firms have made according to the number of women in their boardroom.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Financial support was provided by International Women’s Forums Florida, Women Executive Leadership Florida, and the Florida Chapters of Women Corporate Directors.

Citation

Salaiz, A. and Faifman, L. (2023), "The magic number: three women on the board", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JBS-08-2023-0159

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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