Skip to main content

Are there gender-related influences on corporate sustainability? A study of women on boards of directors

  • Jeremy Galbreath (a1)

This study sought to investigate if there is a link between women on boards of directors and corporate sustainability. Using a sample of publicly listed firms from Australia, the results suggest some level of support that a link does exist. Boards that have a strong complement of gender diversity are expected to offer more effective monitoring of agents, as well as offer more stringent enforcement of ethical conduct, thereby minimizing affects of subversion of shareholder funds that can be detrimental to their returns. Accordingly, findings confirm a positive link between women on boards and economic growth. Because of their relational abilities, women on boards are more likely able to engage with multiple stakeholders and respond to their needs, resulting in an avenue for demonstrating social responsiveness, which is confirmed by the results. However, due to their backgrounds and work experiences, sex-based biases and stereotyping might exist in boardrooms with men directors discounting input from women directors on issues relating to environmental quality. The results of this study find that women directors are not significantly associated with environmental quality. Discussion is given to these findings along with paths for future research.

Hide All
Adams, R., & Ferreira, D. (2009). Women in the boardroom and their impact on governance and performance. Journal of Financial Economics, 94, 291309.
Aguilera, R. V., Rupp, D. E., Williams, C. A., & Ganapathi, J. (2007). Putting the S back in corporate social responsibility: A multi-level theory of social change in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 32, 836863.
Aguilera, R. V., Williams, C. A., Conley, J. M., & Rupp, D. E. (2006). Corporate governance and social responsibility: A comparative analysis of the UK and the US. Corporate Governance: An International Review, 14, 147158.
Arfken, D., Bellar, S., & Helms, M. (2004). The ultimate glass ceiling revisited: The presence of women on corporate boards. Journal of Business Ethics, 50, 177186.
Arndt, M., & Bigelow, B. (2000). Presenting structural innovation in an institutional environment: Hospitals' use of impression management. Administrative Science Quarterly, 45, 494522.
Ayuso, S., & Argandoña, A. (2007). Responsible corporate governance: Towards a stakeholder board of directors? Working Paper No. 701, Barcelona: IESE Business School, University of Navarra.
Bacon, B. (2007). The new paradigm of business in society: A purpose beyond product. Melbourne: Paper presented at Business Council of Australia.
Bansal, P. (2001). Building competitive advantage and managing risk through sustainable development. Ivey Business Journal, 66, 4752.
Bansal, P. (2005). Evolving sustainability: A longitudinal study of corporate sustainable development. Strategic Management Journal, 26, 197218.
Barney, J. B., & Hansen, M. H. (1994). Trustworthiness as a source of competitive advantage. Strategic Management Journal, 15(Special Issue), 175190.
Benn, S., & Dunphy, D. (Eds.). (2007). Corporate governance and sustainability. London: Routledge.
Bettman, J. R., & Weitz, B. A. (1983). Attributions in the board room: Causal reasoning in corporate annual reports. Administrative Science Quarterly, 28, 165183.
Betz, M., O'Connell, L., & Shepard, J. M. (1989). Gender differences in proclivity for unethical behaviour. Journal of Business Ethics, 8, 321342.
Beyer, J. M., Chattopadhyay, P., George, E., Glick, W. H., Ogilvie, D., & Pugliese, D. (1997). The selective perceptions of managers revisited. Academy of Management Journal, 40, 716737.
Bhimani, A., & Soonawalla, K. (2005). From conformance to performance: The corporate responsibilities continuum. Journal of Accounting and Public Policy, 24, 165174.
Biggins, J. V. (1999). Making board diversity work. Corporate Board, 20, 1117.
Bilimoria, D., & Piderit, S. K. (1994). Board committee membership: Effects of sex-based bias. Academy of Management Journal, 37, 14531477.
Bonn, I. (2004). Board structure and firm performance: Evidence from Australia. Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management, 10, 1424.
Brennan, N., & McCafferty, J. (1997). Corporate governance practices in Irish companies. Irish Journal of Management, 18, 116135.
Brown, D. A. H., & Brown, D. L. (2001). Canadian directorship practices 2001. Ottawa: The Conference Board of Canada.
Brown, D. A. H., Brown, D. L., & Anastasopoulos, V. (2002). Women on boards: Not just the right thing…but the “bright” thing. Ottawa: The Conference Board of Canada.
Brown, T. J., & Dacin, P. A. (1997). The company and the product: Corporate associations and consumer product responses. Journal of Marketing, 61, 6884.
Carroll, A. B. (1979). A three-dimensional conceptual model of corporate performance. Academy of Management Review, 4, 497505.
Carter, D. A., Simkins, B. J., & Simpson, W. G. (2003). Corporate governance, board diversity and firm value. The Financial Review, 38, 3353.
Catalyst (2004). The bottom line: Connecting corporate performance and gender diversity. New York: Catalyst.
Catalyst (2005). Women ‘take care’, men ‘take charge’: Stereotyping of US business leaders exposed. New York: Catalyst.
Clarke, T. (2007). The evolution of director's duties: Bridging the divide between corporate governance and corporate social responsibility. Journal of General Management, 32, 79105.
Clarkson, M. B. E. (1995). A stakeholder framework for analyzing and evaluating corporate social performance. Academy of Management Review, 20, 92117.
Clarkson, P. M., Li, Y., Richardson, G. D., & Vasvari, F. P. (2008). Revisiting the relation between environmental performance and environmental disclosure an empirical analysis. Accounting, Organisations and Society, 33, 303327.
Conner, K. R. (1991). A historical comparison of resource-based theory and five schools of thought with industrial organization economics: Do we have a new theory of the firm? Journal of Management 17(Special Issue), 121154.
Cormier, D., Magnan, M., & Van Velthoven, B. (2005). Environmental disclosure quality in large German companies: Economic incentives, public pressures or institutional conditions? European Accounting Review, 14, 339.
Daily, C. M., Certo, S. T., & Dalton, D. R. (1999). A decade of corporate women: Some progress in the boardroom, none in the executive suite. Strategic Management Journal, 20, 93100.
Davis, I., & Stephenson, E. (2006). Ten trends to watch in 2006. The McKinsey Quarterly: The Online Journal of McKinsey & Co. Available at
de Luis-Carnicer, P., Martinez-Sánchez, A., & Pérez-Pérez, M. (2008). Gender diversity in management: Curvilinear relationships to reconcile findings. Gender in Management: An International Journal, 23, 583597.
Desvaux, G., Devillard-Hoellinger, S., & Baumgarten, P. (2007). Women matter: Gender diversity, a corporate performance driver. Paris: McKinsey & Company.
Devers, C. E., Cannella, A. A. Jr., Reilly, G. P., & Yoder, M. E. (2007). Executive compensation: A multidisciplinary review and recent developments. Journal of Management, 33, 10161072.
Dobbin, F., & Sutton, R. C. (1998). The strength of a weak state: The rights movement and the rise of the human resources management divisions. American Journal of Sociology, 104, 441476.
Doering, D. S., Cassara, A., Layke, C., Ranganathan, J., Revenga, C., Tunstall, D., & Vanasselt, W. (2002). Tomorrow's markets: Global trends and their implications for business. Baltimore, MD: World Resources Institute.
Donaldson, T., & Dunfee, T. W. (1994). Toward a unified conception of business ethics: Integrated social contract theory. Academy of Management Review, 19, 252284.
Eagly, A. H., Johannesen-Schmidt, M. C., & van Engen, M. (2003). Transformational, transactional and laissez-faire leadership styles: A meta-analysis comparing women and men. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 569591.
Elkington, J. (1997). Cannibals with forks: The triple bottom line of the 21st century business. Oxford: Capstone Publishing.
EOWA (2004). 2004 EOWA Australian census of women in leadership. Canberra: Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency.
EOWA (2008). A gender in the boardroom. Canberra: Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency.
Fama, E. F. (1980). Agency problems and the theory of the firm. Journal of Political Economy, 88, 288307.
Fama, E. F., & Jensen, M. C. (1983a). Agency problems and residual claims. Journal of Law and Economics, 26, 327350.
Fama, E. F., & Jensen, M. C. (1983b). Separation of ownership and control. Journal of Law and Economics, 26, 301325.
Flynn, P., & Adams, S. (2004). Changes will bring more women to boards. Financial Executive, 20, 3235.
Francoeur, C., Labelle, R., & Sinclair-Desgagné, B. (2008). Gender diversity in corporate governance and top management. Journal of Business Ethics, 81, 8395.
Freeman, R. E. (1984). Strategic management: A stakeholder approach. Oxford: Blackwell.
Funder, D. C., & Ozer, D. J. (1983). Behaviour as a function of situations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44, 107112.
Galbreath, J. (2009a). Sustainable development in business: A strategic view. Working paper. Perth: Graduate School of Business, Curtin University.
Galbreath, J. (2009b). Corporate governance practices that address climate change: An exploratory study. Business Strategy and the Environment, 19, 335350.
Gamble, G., Hsu, K., Kite, D., & Radtke, R. (1995). Environmental disclosures in annual reports and 10K's: An examination. Accounting Horizons, 9, 3454.
Hackston, D., & Milne, J. J. (1996). Some determinants of social and environmental disclosures in New Zealand companies. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 9, 77108.
Hair, J. F. Jr., Anderson, R. E., Tatham, R. L., & Black, W. C. (1995). Multivariate data analysis. New York: Macmillan.
Hart, S. L. (1995). A natural-resource-based view of the firm. Academy of Management Journal, 37, 9861014.
Hart, S. L., & Ahuja, G. (1996). Does it pay to be green? An empirical study of the relationship between emission reduction and firm performance. Business Strategy and the Environment, 5, 3037.
Hart, S. L., & Milstein, M. B. (2003). Creating sustainable value. Academy of Management Executive, 17, 5669.
Hassel, L., Nilsson, H., & Nyquist, S. (2005). The value relevance of environmental performance. European Accounting Review, 14, 4161.
Hater, J. J., & Bass, B. M. (1988). ‘Superiors’ evaluations and subordinates' perceptions of transformational and transactional leadership. Journal of Applied Psychology, 73, 695702.
Hefferman, M. (2002). Exhibit A: The female CEO. Fast Company, 61, 5866.
Henderson, D. (2005). The role of business in the world of today. Journal of Corporate Citizenship, 17, 3032.
Hendry, K., & Kiel, G. C. (2004). The role of the board in fi rm strategy: Integrating agency and organisational control perspectives. Corporate Governance: An International Review, 12, 500520.
Hillman, A. J., Cannella, A. A. Jr., & Harris, I. C. (2002). Women and racial minorities in the boardroom: How do directors differ? Journal of Management, 28, 747763.
Hillman, A. J., & Keim, G. D. (2001). Shareholder value, stakeholder management, and social issues: What's the bottom line? Strategic Management Journal, 22, 125139.
Hillman, A. J., Keim, G. D., & Luce, R. A. (2001). Board composition and stakeholder performance: Do stakeholder directors make a difference? Business and Society, 40, 295314.
Hisrich, R. D., & Brush, C. (1984). The woman entrepreneur: Management skills and business problems. Journal of Small Business Management, 22, 3037.
Holliday, C. O. J., Schmidheiny, S., & Watts, S. P. (2002). Walking the talk: The business case for sustainable development. Geneva: World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
Hosmer, L. T. (1995). Trust: The connecting link between organization theory and philosophical ethics. Academy of Management Review, 20, 379403.
Ibrahim, N., & Angelidis, J. (1995). The corporate social responsiveness orientation of board members. Journal of Business Ethics, 14, 405410.
Ilinitch, A., Soderstrom, N., & Thomas, T. (1998). Measuring corporate environmental performance. Journal of Accounting and Public Policy, 17, 387408.
Jamali, D., Safieddine, A. M., & Rabbath, M. (2008). Corporate governance and corporate social responsibility synergies and interrelationships. Corporate Governance: An International Review, 16, 443459.
Jehn, K. A. (1995). A multimethod examination of the benefi ts and detriments of intragroup conflict. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40, 256282.
Jehn, K. A., Northcraft, G. B., & Neale, M. A. (1999). Why differences make a difference: A field study of diversity, conflict, and performance in workgroups. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44, 741763.
Jensen, M. C. (1986). Agency costs of free cash flow, corporate finance and takeovers. American Economic Review, 76, 323329.
Jensen, M. C., & Meckling, W. H. (1976). Theory of the firm: Managerial behaviour, agency costs and ownership structure. Journal of Finance, 3, 305350.
Kang, H., Cheng, M., & Gray, S. J. (2007). Corporate governance and board composition: Diversity and independence of Australian boards. Corporate Governance: An International Review, 15, 194207.
Klassen, R. D., & Whybark, D. (1999). The impact of environmental technologies on manufacturing performance. Academy of Management Journal, 42, 599615.
Konrad, A., Kramer, V., & Erkut, S. (2008). Critical mass: The impact of three or more women, on corporate boards. Organizational Dynamics, 37, 145167.
Konrad, A., Steurer, R., Langer, M. E., & Martinuzzi, A. (2006). Empirical findings on business-society relations in Europe. Journal of Business Ethics, 63, 89105.
Krut, R., & Munis, K. (1998). Sustainable industrial development: Benchmarking environmental policies and reports. Greener Management International, 21, 8898.
Latané, B., & Wolf, S. (1981). The social impact of majorities and minorities. Psychological Review, 88, 438–53.
Lynall, M. D., Golden, B. R., & Hillman, A. J. (2003). Board composition from adolescence to maturity: A multitheoretic view. Academy of Management Review, 28, 416431.
Maass, A., & Clark, R. D. III (1984). Hidden impact of minorities: Fifteen years of minority influence research. Psychological Bulletin, 95, 428450.
Mahon, J. F., & Waddock, S. A. (1992). Strategic issues management: An integration of issue life cycle perspectives. Business and Society, 31, 1933.
Maignan, I., & Ralston, D. A. (2002). Corporate social responsibility in Europe and the U.S.: Insights from businesses' self-presentations. Journal of International Business Studies, 33, 497514.
Mann, M. E., Bradley, R. S., & Hughes, M. K. (1998). Global-scale temperature patterns and climate forcing over the past six centuries. Nature, 392, 779787.
Mann, M. E., & Jones, P. D. (2003). Global surface temperatures over the past two millennia. Geophysical Research Letters, 30, CLM 5-1–CLM 5-4.
Mattis, M. (1993). Women directors: Progress and opportunities for the future. Business in the Contemporary World, 5, 140156.
Mercer Investment Consulting (2006). 2006 fearless forecast. New York: Mercer Investment Consulting.
Miles, M. P., Munilla, L. S., & Darroch, J. (2006). The role of strategic conversations with stakeholders in the formation of corporate social responsibility strategy. Journal of Business Ethics 69, 195205.
Miller, T., & del Carmen Triana, M. (2009). Demographic diversity in the boardroom: Mediators of the board diversity-firm performance relationship. Journal of Management Studies, 46, 755786.
Mitchell, R., Agle, B., & Wood, D. (1997). Toward a theory of stakeholder identification and salience: Defining the principle of who and what really counts. Academy of Management Review, 22, 853886.
Mizik, N., & Jacobson, R. (2003). Trading off between value creation and value appropriation: The financial implications of shifts in strategic emphasis. Journal of Marketing, 67, 6376.
Montiel, I. (2008). Corporate social responsibility and corporate sustainability. Organisation & Management, 21, 245269.
Natividad, I. (2005). Women directors and the global company. Directors Monthly, 03 13–15.
Noreen, E. (1988). The economics of ethics: A new perspective on agency theory. Accounting Organisations and Society, 13, 359369.
Oppenheim, J., Bonini, S., Bielak, D., Kehm, T., & Lacy, P. (2007). Shaping the new rules of competition: UN global compact participant mirror. New York: McKinsey & Company.
Parnell, J. A. (2008). Sustainable strategic management: Construct, parameters, research directions. International Journal of Sustainable Strategic Management, 1, 3545.
Patten, D. M. (2002). The relation between environmental performance and environmental disclosure: A research note. Accounting, Organisations and Society, 27, 763773.
Porter, M. E. (1985). Competitive advantage. New York: The Free Press.
Porter, M. E., & Kramer, M. R. (2006). Strategy and society: The link between competitive advantage and corporate social responsibility. Harvard Business Review, 84, 7892.
Porter, M. E., & Reinhardt, F. L. (2007). A strategic approach to climate. Harvard Business Review, 85, 22–23, 26.
Powell, A., Bagihole, B., & Dainty, A. (2009). How women engineers do and undo gender: Consequences for gender equality. Gender, Work and Organisation, 16, 411428.
Ricart, J. E., Rodríguez, M. A., & Sánchez, P. (2005). Sustainability in the boardroom: An empirical examination of Dow Jones sustainability world index leaders. Corporate Governance: The International Journal of Business in Society, 5, 2441.
Rose, C. (2007). Does female board representation influence firm performance? The Danish evidence. Corporate Governance: An International Review, 15, 404413.
Rosener, J. B. (1995). America's competitive secret: Utilizing women as a management strategy. New York: Oxford University Press.
Russo, M. V., & Fouts, P. A. (1997). A resource-based perspective on corporate environmental performance and profitability. Academy of Management Journal, 40, 534559.
Rust, R., Lemon, K., & Zeithaml, V. A. (2004). Return on marketing: Using customer equity to focus marketing strategy. Journal of Marketing, 68, 109124.
Salancik, G. R., & Meindl, J. R. (1984). Corporate attributions as strategic illusions of management control. Administrative Science Quarterly, 29, 238254.
Schein, V. E. (1973). The relationship between sex role stereotypes and requisite management characteristic. Journal of Applied Psychology, 57, 95105.
Schmidheiny, S. (1992). Changing course: A global business perspective on development and the environment. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Sharma, S. (2000). Managerial interpretations and organisational context as predictors of corporate choice of environmental strategy. Academy of Management Journal, 43, 681697.
Sharma, S., & Henriques, I. (2005). Stakeholder influences on sustainability practices in the Canadian forest products industry. Strategic Management Journal, 26, 159180.
Singh, V., Terjesen, S., & Vinnicombe, S. (2008). Newly appointed directors in the boardroom: How do women and men differ? European Management Journal, 26, 4858.
Steurer, R., Langer, M. E., Konrad, A., & Martinuzzi, A. (2005). Corporations, stakeholders and sustainable development I: A theoretical exploration of business-society relations. Journal of Business Ethics, 61, 263281.
Stranislaw, J. A. (2007). Climate change and energy security: The future is now. New York: Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.
Tirole, J. (2001). Corporate governance. Econometrica, 69, 135.
Victoria López, M., Garcia, A., & Rodriguez, L. (2007). Sustainable development and corporate performance: A study based on the Dow Jones sustainability index. Journal of Business Ethics, 75, 285300.
Waddock, S. A., & Graves, S. B. (1997). The corporate social performance-fi nancial performance link. Strategic Management Journal, 18, 303319.
WCED (1987). Our common future. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Westphal, J. D. (1999). Collaboration in the boardroom: The consequences of social ties in the CEO/board relationship. Academy of Management Journal, 42, 724.
Westphal, J. D., & Zajac, E. J. (1998). The symbolic management of stockholders: Corporate governance reforms and shareholder reactions. Administrative Science Quarterly, 43, 127153.
Williams, S. L. M. (1999). Voluntary environmental and social accounting disclosure practices in the Asia-Pacific region: An international empirical test of political economy theory. The Journal of International Accounting, 34, 130.
Williamson, O. E. (1975). Markets and hierarchies: Analysis and antitrust implications. New York: The Free Press.
Williamson, O. E. (1985). The economic institutions of capitalism. New York: The Free Press.
Wilson, M., & Lombardi, R. (2001). Globalization and its discontents. Ivey Business Journal, 66, 6972.
Zattoni, A., & Cuomo, F. (2009). How independent, competent and incentivized should non-executive directors be? An empirical investigation of good governance codes. British Journal of Management, 21, 6379.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Management & Organization
  • ISSN: 1833-3672
  • EISSN: 1839-3527
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-management-and-organization
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 34 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1863 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 21st June 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.