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Bolder Policies for Diversity at the Top?

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Research Symposium:
Bolder policies for diversity at the top?

Has the time come for bolder policies at the top of the corporation? The path breaking study by Rosabeth Moss Kanter proposed that women would not have easy access to top management since they lacked critical mass. In almost all countries, the percentage of female CEOs is less than 5 percent and female board directors hover between 10 percent and 15 percent. Given that university graduates are now more than 50 percent female and the labor forces are also nearly equally divided by gender, the lack of penetration of women to the top of the corporation is stunning.

The implication, sometimes contested, is that there are simply not enough women to change beliefs and clubs that influence the selection of top officers of the corporation. As of 2008, Norway imposed penalties for public and state-owned enterprises that failed to achieve a target of 40 percent of directors to be female. The few studies done on this experiment, which is being implemented elsewhere in Europe, indicate that the social justice goals of quotas also impose costs. In some cases, firms anticipated these costs and exited Norway or public listings; for those that stayed, one study showed that financial performance fell. At the same time, other research indicates that increasing diversity improves performance and increasing women changes the agenda of issues to be addressed and improves governance. What do we know about bold policies for creating diversity at the top of the corporation? What is the effect of these policies?

This conference, jointly organized by the Athena Center for Leadership Studies and the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Center for Ethics and Leadership, brought together academic and practitioner thought leaders to discuss what research and experience has told us about ways to increase diversity at the top. The conference takes for granted that diversity has an important property of social justice and other benefits, but to this adds the question at what cost to private liberties and economic performance. This half-day event began with a keynote address followed by two panels and active debate.

Friday December 10, 2010
8:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Venue: The Italian Academy

Co-hosted by: The Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College and the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Center for Leadership and Ethics

8:00 – 8:15 AM

Breakfast and Conference Registration

8:15 – 8:30 AM

Welcome and Introduction
Debora Spar
President, Barnard College.

Bruce Kogut
Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Professor of Leadership and Ethics;
Director, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Center, Columbia Business School (Download presentation PPT | See video).

8:30 – 9:30 AM

Keynote Presentation:

Esther Duflo
Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics, MIT:
"Political Reservation and Substantive Representation: Evidence from Indian Panchayats" (Download presentation PPT | Related Academic Papers below).
(40 minute presentation, 20 minute Q & A)

9:30 – 11:00 AM

Research Panel:

See video of the panel's presentations and discussion.

Ann Bartel (Moderator)
Merrill Lynch Professor of Workforce Transformation, Chair, Economics Subdivision, Columbia Business School.

Amy Dittmar
Associate Professor of Finance, Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan:
"The Impact on Firm Valuation of Mandated Female Board Representation." (Download presentation PPT)

David Ross
Assistant Professor, Columbia Business School:
"Some Research on the Business Case for Diversity and the Attitudes of Male Executives" (Download presentation PPT)

Mona Lena Krook
Assistant Professor of Political Science and Women and Gender Studies, Washington University in St. Louis:
"Quotas for Women on Corporate Boards: Lessons From Politics" (Download presentation PPT)

Susan Sturm
George M. Jaffin Professor of Law and Social Responsibility, Columbia Law School:
"Reframing the Equality Agenda" (Download presentation PPT)

(15 minute presentations, 30 minute Q & A)

11:00– 11:15 AM

Coffee Break

11:15 – 12:15 PM

Industry Leaders Session: "Recruiting for Boards and CEOs"

See video of the panel discussion.

Gillian Tett (Moderator)
U.S. Managing Editor, Financial Times.

Barbara Colwell BUS '80
Corporate Director; Advisory Board member, Women Corporate Directors; and Former Executive Director, ThinkQuest NYC.

James DeGraffenreidt BUS '78
Corporate Director; Former chairman and CEO of WGL Holdings, Inc.

Sheila Hooda
Senior Managing Director, TIAA-CREF.

Ellen Stafford-Sigg
Board Member, Deloitte LLP; and Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

12:15 – 12:30 PM

Closing Remarks:
Kathryn Kolbert
Director, Athena Center for Leadership Studies; Professor of Leadership Studies, Barnard College, Columbia University.

Gita Johar
Meyer Feldberg Professor of Business; Vice Dean for Research, Columbia Business School.

Research faculty who would like to learn more about this symposium can contact: leadershipethics (AT) gsb (DOT) columbia (DOT) edu.

Related Academic papers

Beaman, Lori, Chattopadhyay, Raghabendra, Duflo, Esther, Pande, Rohini and Topalova, Petia, Powerful Women: Does Exposure Reduce Bias?, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, November 2009, Vol. 124, No. 4, Pages 1497–1540.

Ahern, Kenneth R. and Dittmar, Amy K., The Changing of the Boards: The Value Effect of a Massive Exogenous Shock, May 19, 2010.

Dezso, Cristian and Ross, David, Female Participation in Top Management and Firm Performance, August 2008.

Belinky, Mariano and Kogut, Bruce, "Corporate Boards and Gender: An Analysis of Attaining Structural Equality among Women and Men by Quotas", 2010, Working paper.

Harrigan, Kathryn R., Numbers and Positions of Women Elected to Corporate Boards, Academy of Management Journal, 1981, 24: 619–625.

Krook, Mona Lena, Quota Laws for Women in Politics: Implications for Feminist Practice, 2008, Social Politics 15 (3): 345–368


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Program Brochure

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