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Women in the Boardroom: Institutional and Organizational Approaches to Gender Equality

Final Report Summary - BOARDEQUALITY (Women in the Boardroom: Institutional and Organizational Approaches to Gender Equality)

The BOARDEQUALITY project ( was carried out at the Chair of Labour Politics, Department of Management, Freie Universität Berlin. The key objective of the BOARDEQUALITY project is to develop a better understanding of women’s access and contribution to corporate boards, and to contextualize this understanding using an internationally comparative approach. We draw on institutional and organizational theories to explain the underrepresentation of women in the upper echelons of organizations. The project combines an internationally comparative analysis of quantitative data with an in-depth national case study based on qualitative research.
In a first step, by means of a systematic literature review, we developed a detailed research agenda that allows us to generate new knowledge on women’s access and contributions to boards.
Second, we undertook an internationally comparative analysis of the relationship between the representation of women on boards and women in management, as well as between the representation of women on boards and the existence of diversity policies in firms. This analysis shows to what extent increasing women’s representation on boards contributes to gender equality in organizations more generally, thereby illuminating the impact for working women.
The third step in this project is a case study of women on boards in Germany. An in-depth examination of women’s access to boards in Germany over time highlights through which paths women have made inroads to the top levels of organizations. This is compared and contrasted to other national cases, revealing country-specific factors shaping women’s access. Women’s contributions to boards in Germany, and in particular their contribution to augmenting gender equality in their firms, are elicited in a qualitative analysis of women directors’ views on their roles as directors.
This research area is highly topical, and change is taking place in many organizations and countries. We have sought to contribute to both the academic and the public debate on women’s representation on corporate boards by publishing in a range of outlets targeting different audiences (academic journals, a country chapter in an edited collection, reports for readers in politics and business) and by presenting our research results both to the international scientific community as well as to practitioners, by delivering talks and contributing to discussion panels. Our research results have also been featured in the press.