Unpacking Board Diversity: Women Director Experience and Corporate Social Responsibility
Prof. Christine M. Beckman
The Price Family Chair in Social Innovation
The USC Price School of Public Policy
University of Southern California
The impact of board gender diversity on firm-level behavior has been the object of many studies but the mechanisms underlying a diversity effect have been rarely studied. We focus on research demonstrating that firms with female board members engage in more social and ethical practices to begin to unpack why female board members are important to firm-level behaviors. We examine how the unique and diverse experiences of female board members influence firm-level CSR behaviors. Using a sample of S&P 1500 firms, and a hand-collected database on the backgrounds of all female board members over a 19-year period, we find that diverse functional experience and the advanced and elite educational backgrounds of female board members drive the positive association between board gender diversity and firm-level CSR. Our findings support extending the important research on demographics to include deep-level differences in board member experiences, especially as the demographics of board composition shift toward more diverse representation.