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Gender and Board Activeness: The Role of a Critical Mass


This study analyzes detailed minutes of board meetings of business companies in which the Israeli government holds a substantial equity interest. Boards with at least 3 directors of each gender are found to be at least 79% more active at board meetings than those without such representation. This phenomenon is driven by women directors in particular; they are more active when a critical mass of at least 3 women is in attendance. Gender-balanced boards are also more likely to replace underperforming chief executive officers (CEOs) and are particularly active during periods when CEOs are being replaced.

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* Schwartz-Ziv,, Eli Broad College of Business, Michigan State University.
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I am deeply grateful to Eugene Kandel and Michael Weisbach (co-advisors of my Hebrew University doctoral dissertation, upon which this paper is based) for their continuing guidance and support. In addition, I thank the employees of Israel’s Government Companies Authority, who allowed me to conduct research, as well as the companies studied, which kindly provided me with private and sensitive data. I also owe a debt of gratitude to the following people who shared their thoughts with me and gave me advice: participants in the 2013 American Economic Association Conference, 2014 American Finance Association Conference, and 2014 Ackerman Conference on Corporate Governance and seminar participants at Baruch College, the Brandeis University doctoral seminar, the Harvard doctoral seminar, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Michigan State University, the MIT doctoral seminar, the Mossavar-Rahmani Center at Harvard Kennedy School, Northeastern University, the Political Economy Workshop at Harvard, the Program on Corporate Governance at Harvard Law School, University of Toronto, Simmons College, Stony Brook University, Tel-Aviv University, the University of California Riverside, Virginia Tech, Washington University of Saint Louis, the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard Kennedy School, and Yeshiva University. I also thank Renée Adams, Bo Becker, Shai Bernstein, Iris Bohnet, Constantine Boussalis, Travis Coan, Lauren Cohen, Martijn Cremers, Andrew Ellul, Mara Faccio (the referee), Robin Greenwood, Boris Groysberg, Jarrad Harford (the editor), Victoria Ivashina, Dirk Jenter, Natalia Karelaia, Saul Lach, Lubomir Litov, Evgeny Lyandres, Nadya Malenko, Amalia Miller, Johanna Mollerstrom, Udi Nisan, Genevieve Pham-Kanter, Antoinette Schoar, Elis Sisli, Stanislav Sokolinski, Laura Starks, Daniel Schwartz, Schraga Schwartz, Asher Tishler, Lucy White, and Justin Wolfers. I also thank the Program on Corporate Governance at Harvard Law School and the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard Kennedy School for hosting me as a fellow while working on the paper. Finally, I am grateful to the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology and the Hebrew University’s School of Business Administration for financial support. This paper was previously circulated under the title “Does the Gender of Directors Matter?”

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