Few Women on Boards: What’s Identity Got to Do With It?

  • Lívia Markoczy
  • Sunny Li Sun
  • Jigao ZhuEmail author
Original Paper


Drawing on the similarity-attraction perspective and social identity theory, we argue that male versus female interlocking directors are likely to have different experiences when they work alongside female board directors of other firms. The theorized source of such experiences for male interlocking directors is in-group favoritism and/or a social identity threat-related discomfort. Interlocking female directors are theorized to be ambivalent between desiring social support versus experiencing identity threat-based career concerns. These experiences are predicted to motivate male versus female interlocking directors in different ways to reduce or, conversely, to potentially facilitate female representation on focal boards. We additionally predict that economic crisis reduces the biases of male directors against appointing female directors to boards. We test our hypotheses based on a novel data set that includes 25,460 directors in Chinese A-share public companies with a sample of 27,058 firm-quarter observations for 1635 firms between 2006 and 2010 and find most of our hypotheses supported.


Women on boards Board interlock ties Social identity 



We thank Roberto S. Santos for the comments. Jigao Zhu is grateful for the support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Approval No. 71472042, 71628201) and Young Top-Notch Talents Team Program of Beijing Excellent Talents Funding (Approval No. 2017000026833ZS06).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Naveen Jindal School of ManagementUniversity of Texas at DallasRichardsonUSA
  2. 2.Manning School of BusinessUniversity of Massachusetts LowellLowellUSA
  3. 3.Business SchoolUniversity of International Business and EconomicsBeijingChina

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