Women’s History Month: Columbia Business School Experts Research Ways to Improve Outcomes for Women in Business
March 14, 2023
NEW YORK, NY – It’s Women’s History Month, an important moment to focus on how far women have come, and how far our society has to go to ensure gender equality. Columbia Business School’s faculty experts are leaders on women in the workplace, with groundbreaking research that highlights gender disparities in business and solutions to close them.
Here are six studies on topics important to improving outcomes for women in business:
- Women and Corporate Boards – Gender Quotas Don’t Drive Down Stock Prices — In 2018, California passed the United States’ first bill to mandate more women in the boardroom. The law required over 600 public companies headquartered in the state to appoint at least one female director. The law had an immediate impact – raising the percentage of board seats held by women from 24 to 29 percent in just two years – but some economic studies found that the quota drove down stock prices. Professor Michaela Pagel, the Roderick H. Cushman Associate Professor of Business disproves that notion in her research, finding that shareholders’ support for mandated female directors is still strong after the law’s passage. They instead found that stock price declines were tied to companies with dysfunctional board dynamics. Read more about Professor Pagel’s research here.
- Female Leadership in the C-Suite – Women Change How Businesses Speak — For generations, large corporations have been dominated by male leadership, meaning that men set the tone for how businesses portray themselves and their employees. Past analyses of corporate filings show that when men lead organizations, it can lead to the perpetuation of damaging gender tropes for their female subordinates: women who project qualities of being compliant will end up being viewed as warm but incompetent. At the other end of the spectrum, highly motivated, driven women are viewed as competent but less likable. Professor Sandra Matz, the David W. Zalaznick Associate Professor of Business found that giving women a seat in the boardroom can transform organizational culture, and that companies that hire female chief executives and board members are more likely to see changes in the way an organization uses language. “The language we use to describe men and women speaks volumes and has consequences for stereotypes, career outcomes, and beyond,” said Professor Matz. Read more about Professor Matz’s research here.
- Changing Gender Disparities – Female-led Companies Draw in More Female Applicants — Diversifying the workplace is an urgent priority for most employers, but the barriers to doing so are steep: studies have shown that in order to achieve gender balance at work, nearly 50 percent of women would need to change occupations. However, an ongoing challenge for companies as they work to diversify their workforce is ensuring diverse applicants are submitting resumes. Professor Mabel Abraham, the Barbara and Meyer Feldberg Associate Professor of Business and Professor Vanessa Burbano, the Sidney Taurel Associate Professor of Business found that leadership, gender, and organizational value claims lead to gender differences in the companies to which men and women apply: male job seekers tend to apply based on perceived consistency between the gender of leadership and organizational claims, while female candidates additionally prioritize signals that suggest the employer is unbiased and equitable. Read more about their research here.
- Wage Disparities for Men and Women – Salary Disclosure Bans May Hurt Female Applicants — Nearly half of U.S. states have enacted a ban to stop employers – both public and private – from asking prospective or current employees about their salary history and compensation. By ending this practice, the ban is intended to put more negotiating power back in the hands of employees and help them make bigger salary gains. As historical inequalities relating to gender, race, ethnicity, and other protected classes persist, the ban is meant to close gaps in pay. However, research from Professor Bo Cowgill found that 28 percent of workers disclose even when not asked, and that candidates who disclosed their salaries to recruiters saw an increase in job offers compared to those that remained silent. The study raises important issues that policymakers should consider about how bans can be used to help workers. Read more about Professor Cowgill’s study here.
- Startup Funding for Women-led Ventures – Why Aren’t Startups Founded by Women Getting More Funding? — According to researchers from Columbia Business School and London Business School, businesses led by women are 63 percent less likely to obtain venture capital (VC) funding than those led by men. While previous studies have focused on gender disparities at the investment-seeking stage, this study documents how the gender gap, in fact, arises at different points in the entrepreneurship pipeline. Perhaps most notably, it is predominantly driven by factors that come before women even decide to start a company or not. Professor Jorge Guzman, an Associate Professor of Business, who researched this phenomenon says, “While efforts to help existing women entrepreneurs are important, two-thirds of the issue is that we do not even see the women become entrepreneurs in the first place or start companies with the right underlying characteristics for attracting VC financing. These results fundamentally change the focus of entrepreneurship gender research to a place that has been, up to now, largely ignored.” Read more about Professor Guzman’s study here.
- Startup Funding for Women-led Ventures – Diversifying Funders Could Have Downstream Impacts — Equality in the workforce remains unattainable for many Americans, particularly for women, Black and Latino people. Disparities in pay and advancement are magnified for women of color – one study showed that in 2021, Latinas made just 57 cents and Black women earned 67 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Latino men. Those disparities aren’t limited to pay -- there are similar inequalities for when people choose to start businesses. The complexity of the entrepreneurial process presents several opportunities for discrimination to occur and fuel this gap. A literature review from Professor Michael Ewens, the David L. and Elsie M. Dodd Professor of Finance, finds that women represent 12 to 28 percent of entrepreneurs, Black entrepreneurs only account for 1 to 10 percent of new business creators, and Latinos account for 2.4 percent of entrepreneurs. The three groups are the lowest among high-growth startups in the country, and Ewens argues that to close these gaps, it’s necessary to change who makes the investment decisions for new ventures and to collect more data to pinpoint the exact causes. Read more about Professor Ewens literature review here.
If you are interested in connecting with any of these professors, please email [email protected].