Getting More Women onto Corporate Boards

Study finds dearth of women on boards, by Jane M. Von Bergen writing for the Philadelphia Inquirer

The key to getting more women on corporate boards is getting more women on board-nominating committees, according to a study released Thursday on diversity in corporate governance.

Success depends on “who makes the lists,” said Vicki Kramer, a Philadelphia management consultant who is chairwoman of a national network of female executives.

Although more boards are adding female directors, boards are still dominated by men, according to the report by the InterOrganization Network, a group of seven organizations of female executives.

“The snail’s pace at which women are making their way into corporate boardrooms is simply not acceptable,” Kramer said in a statement announcing the report.

It’s pretty widely acknowledged that women are under-represented on corporate boards-of-directors. The cause of that is subject to less agreement (is it all sheer sexism, or do women’s different priorities and life-plans play a role?), and the cure for underrepresenation is less agreed-upon still.

But the study described here illustrates nicely the difference between procedural and substantive justice. Substantive justice has to do with the fairness of actual outcomes: “in the end, how many women end up on corporate boards?” Or, alternatively, “how likely is a suitably-qualified woman to make it onto a corporate board?” Procedural justice has to do with the fairness of the procedure that generated that result: “was the process itself a fair one (regardless of whether it in fact produced an ideally fair outcome)?” The study cited here also points to a connection between procedural & substantive justice. Empirical evidence about outcomes (the low rate at which women are appointed to boards) is being attributed to a fact about the procedure (i.e., too few women are involved in the process of appointing board members). This is a neat bit of empirical input for our thinking about justice: it’s not enough to guess, or to postulate what constitutes a fair procedure. Sometimes we can actually look for evidence of bias in procedures, in order to help us engineer better ones.

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