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Legitimacy profiles of women directors on top French company boards

Val Singh (Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield University, Bedford, UK)
Sebastien Point (EM Strasbourg Business School, University of Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France)
Yves Moulin (EM Strasbourg Business School, University of Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France)
Andrès Davila (École Supérieure de Commerce International (ESCE), Paris, France)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 13 July 2015

1040

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to question the profiles of female directors on top French company boards. It explores the legitimacy attributes of current female directors to identify the profiles sought recently, as firms approach the need to make many new appointments to fulfill gender quotas for supervisory boards, given that the proportion of women on a corporate board must reach 40 percent by 2017, with an intermediate level of 20 percent by 2014.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors gathered numerical and qualitative biographical data on all SBF 120 (French stock exchange index) firms’ female directors from annual reports and web sites over seven years (from 2003 to 2009). The authors constructed an SPSS database to categorize the individuals into various orders of legitimacy.

Findings

Drawing on director bio-data, the authors extend previous work on four legitimacy assets (family ownership; academic excellence; strong ties to the State; and top career), by adding a fifth asset (representative director), and contribute a gender dimension to the literature on personal legitimacy. Owning-family ties and academic excellence are still particularly salient in explaining legitimacy of women directors. A new source of female directors since 2005 is the pool of foreign women, outside the elite Grandes Ecoles system.

Research limitations/implications

The authors had data for directors of 115 companies out of the SBF 120 firms. The authors also lacked data for seven women out of 144 appointed during the period, despite efforts to track down data from public sources.

Practical implications

These legitimacy profiles present different challenges for management development as those responsible for appointing several women to their boards in a short space of time will find out.

Social implications

The authors highlight that with the diminishing role of family members on large corporate boards, more women directors need to be found, developed and mentored. If this approach is followed, new female directors with solid achievements can be appointed, without having their legitimacy as directors challenged by resistant males. Women will thus be able to take their legitimate place in French boardrooms and contribute their diverse experiences and knowledge.

Originality/value

This paper questions the legitimacy assets of female directors, which can be clustered into three groups: combined elite education and top corporate career; owning-family membership; and representative directors. These legitimacy profiles present different challenges for management development as those responsible for appointing several women to their boards in a short space of time will find out.

Keywords

Citation

Singh, V., Point, S., Moulin, Y. and Davila, A. (2015), "Legitimacy profiles of women directors on top French company boards", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 34 No. 7, pp. 803-820. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMD-10-2013-0129

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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