Working Paper No. 974

The Role of Language in Corporate Governance: The Case of Board Internationalization

Published: September 10, 2013Pages: 59Keywords: Language diversity; Board internationalization; Commercial internationalization; Financial internationalization; Degree of internationalization; Social exclusion; Silencing effectJEL-codes: D22; F23; F66; G34; M16
Published version

The Role of Language in Corporate Governance: The Case of Board Internationalization Rebecca Piekkari, Lars Oxelheim and Trond Randøy


Multinational corporations internationalize their corporate boardrooms in order to capitalize on their commercial and financial internationalization. Board internationalization provides access to specialized knowledge and skills, broadens social networks and ensures greater transparency of strategic decision-making. The entry of a foreign board member is often coupled with a change in the working language of the board.

The purpose of the present study is to explore and explain how increased language diversity influences decision-making and work processes of corporate boards. We draw on previous research on board internationalization, diversity and language in multinational corporations. Based on a multiple case study of nine multinational corporations from four Nordic countries, we find evidence of impoverished and silenced discussions in board meetings in those case companies that were unprepared to switch to English as the new working language of the board. Some board members found it difficult to contribute to board meetings, articulate disagreement and felt socially excluded from the board. Such effects on decision-making and work processes were not found in the well-prepared companies.

The study adds to the understanding of different modes to internationalize the board as a response to different forms of internationalization of the firm. 

Lars Oxelheim

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Interdisciplinary European Studies

Trust in the European Union in Challenging Times

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This is the first book in the Interdisciplinary European Studies collection. This volume provides an interdisciplinary perspective on trust in the EU from the vantage point of political science, law and economics. Lars Oxelheim, Lund University and affiliated to IFN, is one of the authors.

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