Women's participation on boards of directors: the effects on business growth and profitability


  • Mariasole Bannò
  • Viola Nicolardi




gender; critical mass; token; profitability; growth


Purpose of the paper: This study investigates the relationship between female presence in the BoD (Board of Directors), business growth and profitability.

Methodology: Our sample includes 309 listed companies located in the north of Italy. The analysis uses two different measures to quantify the effects of female presence: growth and profitability. Independent variables are measured both in terms of the presence (or absence) of women in the BoD and in terms of female percentage in the composition of the BoD.

Findings: The sole presence of women reduces the companies’ growth (i.e. token effect), while in terms of profitability the presence isn’t statistically relevant. The percentage of female composition of the BoD has a positive impact both in terms of growth and profitability, suggesting the interpretation given by the theory of critical mass.

Research limit: The work assesses the contribution of gender diversity on business growth and profitability through variables that measure female presence and gender composition on BoD, but it doesn’t consider underlying mechanisms or other factors characterizing the BoD.

Practical implications: Our findings suggest a greater awareness of gender differences in order to develop decision-making characteristics and processes that are useful in increasing business performance, and more generally in the company life.

Originality of the paper: This study deepens the gender role in a firm, highlighting the link between female presence in BoD, business growth and profitability, by analyzing token effect and critical mass.


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