Resistance to Change in the Corporate Elite: Female Directors’ Appointments onto Nordic Boards

Reprint No. 2017:15

Author(s): Aleksandra Gregorič, Lars Oxelheim, Trond Randøy and Steen ThomsenYear: 2017 Title: Journal of Business Ethics Volume (No.): 141 (2) Pages: 267–287
Online article (restrictions may apply)
Preliminary version

In this empirical study, we investigate the variation in firms’ response to institutional pressure for gender-balanced boards, focusing specifically on the preservation of prevailing practices of director selection and its impact on the representation of women on the board of directors. Using 8 years of data from publicly listed Nordic corporations, we show societal pressure to be one of the determinants of female directorship. Moreover, in some corporations, the director selection process may work to maintain “a traditional type of board”. In such boards, demographic diversity among male members appears to be associated with a lower share of female directors, although we cannot establish wether this reflects discrimination or a desire to maintain critical competencies. With this paper we add to the theoretical understanding of the factors underlying female board appointments by adopting an institutional theory lens to study female board representation. Viewing the demands for gender-balanced boards in terms of societal pressure for the de-institutionalization of the prevailing norms and practices, we highlight preferences for maintaining established practices as a potentially important barrier to institutional change. On these grounds, we conjecture on the relationship between the gender diversity of boards and other diversity dimensions. We suggest that a board room gender quota (if implemented) is supplemented by policies to ensure the transparency of board changes, in order to prevent the crowding out of other diversity dimensions.

Gregorič, Aleksandra, Lars Oxelheim, Trond Randøy and Steen Thomsen (2017), "Resistance to Change in the Corporate Elite: Female Directors’ Appointments onto Nordic Boards". Journal of Business Ethics 141(2), 267–287.

Lars Oxelheim


Ph: +46 8 665 4527
Mob: +46 70 861 9361

An Agenda for Europe

Institutional Reform for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Omslag 2017 Institutional Reform for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.jpg

The authors of this book, Niklas Elert, Magnus Henrekson and Mikael Stenkula, advise the economies of the European Union to become more entrepreneurial in promoting innovation and economic growth. The authors propose a reform strategy with respect to several aspects to achieve this goal.


Seminars organized by IFN


To present ongoing research informal brown-bag seminars are held on Mondays at 11:30 am. This is an opportunity for IFN researchers to test ideas and results.

Academically oriented seminars are most of the time held on Wednesdays at 10 am. At these events researchers from IFN and other institutions present their research.

In addition, IFN organizes seminars open to the public. Topics for these are derived from the IFN research.

Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Grevgatan 34 - 2 fl, Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden | Phone: +46-(0)8-665 45 00 | info@ifn.se