Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

The impact of gender demography on male and female role interpretations and contributions: A qualitative study of non-executive directors of Icelandic boards

By Thoranna Jonsdottir


This thesis, submitted for the Cranfield DBA programme, examines and explores the impact of gender demography on male and female director’s role interpretations and contributions. The study was inspired by the scarcity of females on corporate boards and a desire to seek an understanding of how women and men contribute to boards. The study brings together the literature on females on boards, and on board roles and processes, revealing that both bodies of literature could benefit from more in-depth understanding of board processes. The thesis reports the results of two empirical studies based on in-depth interviews with male and female non-executive directors on Icelandic corporate boards. The first study of non-executives of male dominated boards supported many of the findings reported in earlier studies. Females were found to be active in critical questioning and pushing for better decision making. Males on the other hand stressed the importance of informal interactions. The study offered an understanding of the exclusion and low social and power status of females on male dominated boards. The second study, conducted two years later, on non-executives on both male dominated as well as gender integrated boards and an all female board, revealed in much more detail the nature of traditional board interactions and the benefits of a more balanced composition or even an all female composition. Males on gender integrated boards adopted the valuable role of questioning and holding management accountable, previously found to be mainly adopted by females. In addition, a shared understanding of roles and purpose between males and females was found to prevail on those boards. The gender integrated boards and the all female board possessed a much higher degree of openness, interaction and trust, resembling to a large extent the description of exemplary boards found in the literature, and the females on those boards were found to be quite confident. Finally, the findings question if the importance of informal relationships can be generalised, as those were found to have no relevance on gender integrated and all female boards. The study adds to the growing body of literature on board roles and processes, and the female board literature, and has significant implications for practice. It reveals the shortcomings of male dominated boards and challenges them to fundamentally change the ways they act and perform. It demonstrates how female non-executive directors bring valuable contributions and that a better gender balance can positively affect the dynamics of the board

Publisher: Cranfield University
Year: 2010
OAI identifier:
Provided by: Cranfield CERES

Suggested articles


  1. (1999). A decade of corporate women: some progress in the boardroom, none in the executive suite. Strategic management journal, doi
  2. (2000). A different voice in the boardroom: How the presence of women directors affects board influence over management.
  3. (2004). A framework for diagnosing board effectiveness. doi
  4. (2001). A study in studying corporate boards over time: Looking backwards to move forwards. doi
  5. (2001). A view from the top: women on the boards of public companies. doi
  6. (2005). Accessing board positions: A comparison of female and male board members‟ views, doi
  7. (2005). Accountability and creating accountability. doi
  8. (2001). Advancing women in business organizations. doi
  9. (1993). Approaches to social enquiry. doi
  10. Associates 2002. What makes and effective UK board? Views from FTSE chairmen. Russell Reynolds Associates,
  11. (2005). Beyond agency conceptions of the work of the nonexecutive director: Creating accountability in the boardroom. doi
  12. (2002). Board assessments of managerial performance: An analysis of attribution processes. doi
  13. (1994). Board committee membership: Effects of sex-based bias. doi
  14. (2004). Board composition and corporate fraud. Financial analysts journal, doi
  15. (1992). Board composition and corporate philanthropy. doi
  16. (2001). Board composition and stakeholder performance: Do stakeholder directors make a difference? Business and society, doi
  17. (1992). Board composition from a strategic contingency perspective. doi
  18. (2003). Board configuration: building better boards. doi
  19. (2007). Board diversity in the United Kingdom and Norway: an exploratory analysis. doi
  20. (2003). Board dynamics and the influence of professional background, gender and ethnic diversity of directors. doi
  21. (2002). Board dynamics and the politics of appraisal. doi
  22. (1998). Board games: How CEOs adapt to increases in structural board independence from management. Administrative science quarterly, doi
  23. (2004). Board governance: A social systems perspective. The academy of management executive, doi
  24. (2005). Board involvement in strategy and organizational performance.
  25. (2007). Board of director performance: A group dynamics perspective. doi
  26. (2005). Board performance: a three-legged stool. Ivey business journal online,
  27. (2006). Board processes and the quality of board decision making.
  28. (2000). Board working style and task performance. Entrepreneurship and regional development, doi
  29. (1989). Boards of directors and corporate financial performance: A review and integrative model. doi
  30. (1990). Brief case: Non-executive director's role in strategy. Long range planning, doi
  31. (2003). Bringing the best to the board room.
  32. (1997). Building a business case for diversity. The academy of management executive, doi
  33. (2001). Building a high-performing board: how to choose the right members. Business strategy review, doi
  34. (2006). Building better boards.
  35. (2000). Building the business case for women corporate directors. In doi
  36. (2002). Building the complementary board: The work of the plc chairman. Long range planning, doi
  37. Catalyst census of women board directors of Canada. doi
  38. (2005). Catalyst census of women board directors of the Fortune 500. Catalyst, doi
  39. (1999). CEO involvement in the selection of new boardmembers, an empirical analysis. The journal of finance, doi
  40. (2006). Chairman and chief executive officer (CEO): That sacred and secret relationship. doi
  41. (1991). Chairmen and chief executives: An exploration of their relationship. doi
  42. (1994). Changing role of the board of directors: In search of a new strategic identity? The Mid - Atlantic journal of business,
  43. (2000). Changing scenes in, from and outside the board room: UK corporate governance in practice from doi
  44. (2004). Characteristics of women and men corporate inside directors in the US. doi
  45. (2000). Climbing the corporate ladder: Do female and male executives follow the same route? doi
  46. (1999). Cognition and corporate governance: Understanding boards of directors as strategic decision making groups. Academy of management review, doi
  47. (1999). Collaboration in the boardroom: behavioral and performance consequences of CEO-board social ties. Academy of management journal, doi
  48. (1999). Combining qualitative and quantitative methodologies to study group processes: An illustrative study of a corporate board of directors. Organizational research methods, doi
  49. (2004). Compare and contrast; perspectives on board committees. doi
  50. (2004). Composing a balanced and effective board to meet new governance mandates. The business lawyer,
  51. (2003). Control and collaboration: Paradoxes of governance. Academy of management. The Academy of management review. doi
  52. (2001). Corporate boards, investors and their relationships: accounts of accountability and corporate governing in action. doi
  53. (2004). Corporate elites and corporate strategy: How demographic preferences and structural position shape the scope of the firm. Strategic management journal, doi
  54. (2003). Corporate governance and equity prices. The quarterly journal of economics, doi
  55. (2004). Corporate governance and the role of non-executive directors in large UK companies: an empirical study. doi
  56. (2008). Corporate governance decision-making model: how to nominate skilled board members, by addressing the formal and informal systems. doi
  57. (2003). Corporate governance, board diversity, and firm value. The financial review, doi
  58. (2008). Corporate governance, groupthink and bullies in the boardroom. doi
  59. (2009). Corporate reputation and women on the board. doi
  60. (1981). Corporate strategy as a vital function of the board. Harvard business review,
  61. (2008). Critical mass: does the number of women on a corporate board make a difference? In doi
  62. (2008). Critical mass: the impact of three or more women on corporate boards. doi
  63. (2006). CRS in the boardroom: Contribution of the nonexecutive director.
  64. (2008). Current practice of FTSE 359 boards concerning the appointment, evaluation and development of directors, boards and committees post the Combined Code. International journal of business governance and ethics, doi
  65. (2003). Defining and dimensionalising diversity: Evidence from corporate websites across Europe. European management journal, doi
  66. (1998). Demographic diversity and faultlines: The compositional dynamics of organizational groups. The academy of management review, doi
  67. (1998). Demographics and leadership philosophy: Exploring gender differences. The journal of management development, doi
  68. (2002). Developing reflexive corporate leadership: The role of the non executive director. doi
  69. (1989). Devil‟s advocacy and the Board: A modest proposal. doi
  70. (2004). Director recruitment: planning and process. The journal of business strategy, doi
  71. (1996). Director reputation, CEO-board power, and the dynamics of board interlocks. Administrative science quarterly, doi
  72. (1971). Directors: Myth and reality. doi
  73. (1988). Directors' characteristics and committee membership: An investigation of type, occupation, tenure and gender. Academy of management journal, doi
  74. (2003). Directors' responsibilities and participation in the strategic decision making process. doi
  75. (1999). Diversity management: A new organizational paradigm.
  76. (2001). Diversity: A strategic business imperative. Executive speeches,
  77. (2007). Does female board representation influence firm performance? The Danish evidence. doi
  78. (2000). Doing "boards-in-action" research - an ethnographic approach or the capture and analysis of directors' and senior managers' interactive routines. doi
  79. (2000). Editorial: Managing diversity in the new millennium.
  80. (1994). Effect of board members gender on corporate social responsiveness orientations.
  81. (1995). Empowering the board.
  82. (1999). Entrepreneurial ventures as an avenue to the top?: Assessing the advancement of female CEOs and directors in the Inc.100.
  83. (1997). Equal opportunities and the boardroom: The challenge of corporations. doi
  84. (2002). Evaluating corporate board cultures and decision making. doi
  85. (2002). Exploring the influence of decision makers' race and gender on actual promotions to top management. doi
  86. (2008). Female presence on corporate boards: a multi-country study of environmental context. doi
  87. (2002). Fish or cut bait. doi
  88. Frjals verslun 2005. The board women of Iceland. Frjals verslun,
  89. (2004). Games CEOs play and interest convergence theory. Why diversity lags in Americas board rooms and what to do about it. Washington and Lee law review,
  90. (2008). Gender diversity in corporate governance and top management. doi
  91. (2008). Gender diversity in management: curvilinear relationships to reconcile findings. Gender in management, doi
  92. (2008). Gender diversity in the boardroom and firm financial performance. doi
  93. (1998). Gender gap in the executive suite: CEOs and female executives report on breaking the glass ceiling. The academy of management executives, doi
  94. (2003). Gender, gender identity and aspirations to top management. Women in management review, doi
  95. (1999). Governance structure, size and corporate performance in UK firms. doi
  96. (2000). How experience and network ties affect the influence of demographic minorities on corporate boards. Administrative science quarterly, doi
  97. (2006). How many women do boards need? Harvard business review,
  98. (2004). Icelandic business environment.
  99. Icelandic chamber of commerce 2004. Stjornhaettir fyrirtaekja - leidbeiningar. Icelandic chamber of commerce,
  100. (1990). Increasing the board's involvement in strategy. Long range planning, doi
  101. (2003). Inequality between genders in the executive suite in corporate America: Moral and ethical issues. Equal opportunities international, doi
  102. (2005). Inside the boardroom.
  103. (1992). Institutional and strategic choice perspectives on board involvement in the strategic decision . Academy of management journal, doi
  104. (2007). Internal governance in the nonprofit boardroom: a participant observer study. doi
  105. (1986). Involving the board of directors in strategic planning. The journal of business strategy, doi
  106. (1989). Is equality going by the board?
  107. (2004). Leveraging diversity to maximum advantage: The business case for appointing more women to boards.
  108. (2004). Look further afield to find top directors. Personnel today,
  109. (1999). Making board diversity work.
  110. (2009). Making boards effective: an empirical examination of board task performance. doi
  111. (2000). Making it to the top in Britain. In doi
  112. (1999). Making use of difference: diversity, debate, and decision comprehensiveness in top management teams. Academy of management journal, doi
  113. (2002). Management research: An introduction (2nd edition),
  114. (2003). Maximizing shareholder value: the risks to employees, customers and the community. doi
  115. (1977). Men and women of the corporation. doi
  116. (1998). Meta-analytic reviews of board composition, leadership structure, and financial performance. Strategic management journal, doi
  117. (2008). Newly appointed directors in the boardroom: how men and women differ. doi
  118. (2003). Non-executive directors: Moving beyond the “one size fits all” view.
  119. (2003). Not the usual suspects: How to use board process to make boards better. Academy of management executive, doi
  120. (1998). Not there yet.
  121. (1999). Number of directors and financial performance: A meta-analysis. Academy of management journal, doi
  122. (1992). On studying managerial elites. doi
  123. (1989). Pawns or potentates: The reality of America's corporate boards. doi
  124. (1995). Personal, educational and career characteristics of Canadian women directors. doi
  125. (1995). Power and influence in and around the boardroom. Human relations, doi
  126. (2004). Preventing future Hollingers. Ivey business journal online,
  127. (1997). Profiling the pioneers: women directors on New Zealand's corporate boards. Women in management Review, doi
  128. (2004). Public sector corporate governance: British Columbia's best-practices reforms.
  129. (1958). Put the directors to work! Harvard business review,
  130. (1994). Qualifications of corporate board members. doi
  131. (2003). Renewing management and governance: New paradigms of governance?
  132. (1994). Research notes and communication: The effects of board size and diversity on strategic change. Strategic management journal, doi
  133. (1998). Researching the dynamics of board -stakeholder relations. Long range planning, doi
  134. (2003). Review of the role and effectiveness of non-executive directors. The department of trade and industry,
  135. (1996). Searching for common threads: Understanding the multiple effects of diversity in organizational groups. Academy of management review, doi
  136. (1995). Sensemaking in organizations. Thousand Oaks, doi
  137. (1983). Separation of ownership and control. doi
  138. (1995). Shareholders are valuing diversity.
  139. (2003). She says, he says": Women's and men's views of the composition of boards. Women in management review, doi
  140. (2009). Social capital and social influence of the board of directors. doi
  141. (1998). Social capital, intellectual capital and the organizational advantage. Academy of management review, doi
  142. (1998). Sources and uses of power in the boardroom. European journal of work and organizational psychology, doi
  143. (2005). Stakeholder theory in perspective. doi
  144. (2001). Stakeholders' expectations of board roles: The case of subsidiary boards. doi
  145. (1984). Strategic management: A stakeholder approach. doi
  146. (1999). Strategists on the board. Organization studies, doi
  147. (1998). Strategy and the board of directors in venture capital-backed firms. doi
  148. (2005). Studying board context, process and dynamics: Some challenges for the future. British journal of management, doi
  149. (2002). Supervisory directors and ethical dilemmas: Exit or voice? European management journal, doi
  150. (2007). The board advisory tasks in small firms and the event of crisis. doi
  151. (1997). The board of directors over time: Composition and the organizational life cycle.
  152. The bottom line: Connecting corporate performance and gender diversity. Catalyst,
  153. (2004). The Case for Contingent Governance.
  154. (1993). The CEO, venture capitalists, and the board. doi
  155. (2002). The changing power of "explanations": Directors, academic and their sense making from
  156. (1992). The combined code on corporate governance. doi
  157. (1990). The company chairman: His role and responsibility. Long range planning, doi
  158. The Conference Board of Canada 2002. Women on boards: Not just the right thing...but the "bright" thing. The conference board of Canada,
  159. (1992). The corporate board: Confronting the paradoxes. doi
  160. (1992). The corporate board: Confronting the paradoxes. Long range planning, doi
  161. (1995). The corporate social responsiveness orientation of board members: Are there differences between inside and outside directors? doi
  162. (1986). The directors‟ role in planning: What information do they need? Long range planning, doi
  163. (2005). The dynamics of boards of directors in failing organizations. Long range planning, doi
  164. (2004). The dynamics of the boardroom. doi
  165. (2003). The effects of diversity on business performance: report of the diversity research network. Human resource management, doi
  166. (2004). The endangered director. The journal of business strategy, doi
  167. (1978). The evolving board: A look at the board's changing roles and information needs. Academy of management. The academy of management review, doi
  168. (2003). The experience of women corporate inside directors. doi
  169. (2000). The experiences of white women on corporate boards in Canada: Compliance and non-compliance to hegemonic masculinity. In doi
  170. (1978). The external control of organizations: A resource dependence perspective. doi
  171. (2004). The female FTSE report . doi
  172. (2006). The female FTSE report. doi
  173. (2003). The female leadership advantage: An evaluation of the evidence. The leadership quarterly, doi
  174. (2000). The future of corporate women. In doi
  175. (2005). The impact of board monitoring and involvement on top management team affective conflict.
  176. (2004). The impact of changes in the corporate governance system on the boards of directors: Experience from Swedish listed companies.
  177. (2001). The impact of the board on strategy: An empirical examination. doi
  178. (1996). The influence of top management team heterogeneity on firms' competitive moves. Administrative science quarterly, doi
  179. (1986). The invisible director on corporate boards.
  180. (2004). The Nordic 500 women board directors and executive directors. Centre for corporate diversity,
  181. (1995). The power in demography: women's social constructions of gender identity in work. doi
  182. (1973). The president and the board of directors.
  183. (1997). The qualitative comparison of the boardroom experiences of U.S. and Norwegian women corporate directors. International review of women and leadership,
  184. (1999). The relationship between chairmen and chief executives: Competitive or complementary roles? Long range planning, doi
  185. (2006). The relationship between women corporate directors and women corporate officers. doi
  186. (1991). The relative power of CEOs and boards of directors: associations with corporate performance. Strategic management journal, doi
  187. (2005). The role model of the board: A preliminary study of the roles of Icelandic boards. doi
  188. (1966). The social construction of reality. doi
  189. (1995). The social organization of boards of directors. doi
  190. (1998). The stakeholder corporation: A business philosophy for the information age. Long range planning, doi
  191. (2001). The strategic context of external network ties: Examining the impact of director appointments on board involvement in strategic decision making. Academy of management journal, doi
  192. (2003). The Tyson report on the recruitment and development of non-executive directors. London Business School,
  193. (1989). The value of androgynous management.
  194. (1989). Top management and innovation in banking: does the composition of the top team make a difference? Strategic management journal, doi
  195. (1989). Top management group heterogeneity and firm performance. Strategic management journal, 10(Special issue): doi
  196. (1990). Top management team tenure and organizational outcomes: The moderating role of strategic discretion. doi
  197. (2008). Toward a social capital theory of director selection. doi
  198. (1997). Toward a stewardship theory of management. doi
  199. (2008). Trust, firm life cycle and actual board behavior: Evidence from "one of the lads" in the board of three small firms. doi
  200. (1994). Understanding our differences: Performance in decision-making groups with diverse members, doi
  201. (1990). Upgrading management opportunities for women.
  202. (1984). Upper echelons: The organization as a reflection of its top managers. The academy of management review, doi
  203. (1972). Victims of groupthink; a psycological study of foreign-policy decisins and fiascoes. doi
  204. (1995). View from TIAA-CREF: Diversity works. Directors and boards,
  205. (1999). What corporate boards have to do with strategy: A cognitive perspective. doi
  206. (2000). What distinguishes women non-executive directors from executive directors? Individual, interpersonal and organizational factors related to women's appointments to boards. In doi
  207. (1986). What Is the Board of Directors Good For? Long range planning, doi
  208. (2004). What's wrong with corporate governance, a note. Corporate governance, doi
  209. (1999). What's wrong with having friends on the board? Across the board,
  210. (1983). Who controls whom? An examination of the relation between management and boards of directors in large American corporations. Academy of management review, doi
  211. (2002). Who wants to be a competent director? Corporate governance, doi
  212. (2006). Who's in the boardroom and does it matter: The impact of having non-director executives attend board meetings.
  213. (2002). Why a board? Group decision making in corporate governance. Vanderbilt law review,
  214. (2004). Why so few women directors in top UK boardrooms? Evidence and theoretical explanations. doi
  215. (1991). Why women aren‟t making it to the top.
  216. Women and men in US corporate leadership: Same workplace, different realities? Catalyst,
  217. (2002). Women board directors: Characteristics of the few.
  218. (2000). Women corporate directors in the United States. In doi
  219. (1993). Women directors: Progress and opportunities for the future. Business and contemporary world,
  220. (1997). Women in management and firm financial performance: an exploratory study.
  221. (2003). Women in the boardroom: A business imperative. The journal of business strategy, doi
  222. (1984). Women managers; Travelers in a male world.
  223. (2002). Women on boards: Not just the right thing...but the bright thing. The Conference Board of Canada,
  224. (2003). Women on corporate boards of directors: 11-23. Netherlands: doi
  225. (1997). Women on corporate boards of directors: A needed resource. doi
  226. (1994). Women on corporate boards of directors: Forces for change. Women in management review, doi
  227. (1994). Women on corporate boards of directors: Views of Canadian chief executive officers. doi
  228. (2005). Women's experience of leadership in selected Australian universities. Paper presented at the Gender work and organisation conference.
  229. (1989). Work group demography, social integration, and turnover. Administrative science quarterly, doi
  230. (1995). Working at senior management and board levels: Some of the issues for women. Women in management review, doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.