News at Smith

Fearless Idea 9: Put Women on the Board

Mar 09, 2017
World Class Faculty & Research

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SMITH BRAIN TRUST — Corporate gender gaps have narrowed in recent years, but men continue to dominate high-level positions. Among Fortune 500 companies, for example, women held only 20 percent of all board seats in the 2016 Board Diversity Census published Feb. 6, 2017, from the Alliance for Board Diversity in partnership with Deloitte.

Scholars tend to blame the gap on some combination of two factors: Workplace biases or individual choices of women, who may prioritize family above career. Waverly Ding, a management professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, and two co-authors consider both theories but find strong evidence for only one in a study published in the Academy of Management Journal.

“The preponderance of evidence in this article supports demand-side theories,” they write, referring to the workplace biases that limit growth opportunities for women compared to men.

Rather than studying corporate board dynamics — a challenge considering the difficulty of defining the candidate pool — the authors focus on the scientific advisory boards of biotechnology companies. These invitation-only positions provide advantages for study because seats typically go to university scientists — a finite pool of qualified candidates with publicly available career histories.

Women scientists have fewer patents, papers and citations at each career stage than men. But even after controlling for these variables, along with other factors like university prestige, Ding and her co-authors find that male scientists are almost twice as likely to receive advisory board invitations.

The phones simply don’t ring for equally qualified and motivated women scientists.  “We believe that policy interventions are most likely to succeed if they are directed toward the conditions that affect perceptions of women’s qualifications to hold senior corporate roles,” the authors conclude, “especially in the eyes of the decision makers who allocate such opportunities.”

Read more: Ding, Waverly W., Fiona Murray, Toby E. Stuart. 2013. “From Bench to Board: Gender Differences in University Scientists’ Participation in Corporate Scientific Advisory Boards.” Academy of Management Journal 56(5): 1443-1464.

Waverly Ding is associate professor of management and organization at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Research interests: High-tech entrepreneurship and strategy; knowledge transfer among universities and industrial firms; the U.S. biotech industry; labor productivity in science and technology.

Selected accomplishments: 2009-2011 Kauffman Foundation Junior Faculty Fellowship in Entrepreneurship Research (one of five inaugural recipients selected among entrepreneurship researchers in the United States); 2008-2009 UC Berkeley Haas School of Business Schwabacher Award; 2007-2009 Kauffman Foundation Entrepreneurship Research Mini-Grant; 2006 UC Berkeley Regents’ Junior Faculty Fellowship; 2002 Kauffman Foundation Emerging Scholars Initiative Dissertation Research Grant. 

About this series: The Smith School faculty is celebrating Women’s History Month 2017 in partnership with ADVANCE, an initiative to transform the University of Maryland by investing in a culture of inclusive excellence. Daily faculty spotlights support activities from the school’s Office of Diversity Initiatives, culminating with the sixth annual Women Leading Women forum on March 30, 2017.

Other fearless ideas from: Rajshree Agarwal  |  Ritu Agarwal  |  Leigh Anenson  |  Kathryn M. Bartol  |  Christine Beckman  |  Margrét Bjarnadóttir  |  M. Cecilia Bustamante  |  Rellie Derfler-Rozin  |  Waverly Ding  |  Wedad J. Elmaghraby  |  Rosellina Ferraro  |  Rebecca Hann  |  Amna Kirmani  |  Hanna Lee  |  Hui Liao  |  Wendy W. Moe  |  Courtney Paulson  |  Louiqa Raschid  |  Rebecca Ratner  |  Rachelle Sampson  |  Debra L. Shapiro  |  Cynthia Kay Stevens  |  M. Susan Taylor  |  Vijaya Venkataramani  |  Janet Wagner  |  Yajin Wang  |  Yajun Wang  |  Liu Yang  |  Jie Zhang  |  Lingling Zhang  |  PhD Candidates

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business 

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty masters, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.