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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1942/18735

Title: Board directors’ defensive institutional work against gender quota deinstitutionalizing the corporate board room as a male elite space
Authors: ROOS, Hannelore
ZANONI, Patrizia
Issue Date: 2015
Citation: 9th International Conference in Critical Management Studies, Leicester, UK, 8-10 July 2015
Abstract: This paper investigates the defensive institutional work against a legal gender quota which aim to deinstitutionalize gender inequality in corporate board rooms. This type of hard law has been introduced in some western countries in the wake of the financial crisis, and under the auspices of the EU, to redress women’s persistent underrepresentation on corporate boards. Despite increasing political support for regulative pressure, to change corporate institutions with the dual aim of disrupting gendered inequality and to enhance the functioning of corporate boards, gender quotas have been met with much resistance from within. We rely, theoretically, on the literature on discourses of institutional processes (Maguire and Hardy, 2009; Phillips, Lawrence and Hardy, 2004) in order to gain insight into this resistance and to analyze 40 in-depth interviews with corporate board directors of publicly listed companies in Belgium, a country which recently introduced a 1/3-2/3 gender quota, to be met by 2019. Our findings show that while the corporate elite pays mouth service to the ethical value of gender equality, the deinstitutionalization of gender equality is still resisted by: (a) questioning the legitimacy of state intervention into board room composition (regulative pillar); (b) defending the ethics, desirability, and appropriateness of institutionalized board room practices (normative pillar); and by (c) reaffirming the meanings underlying institutionalized board room practices (cultural-cognitive pillar). Moreover, they deploy boundary-making discourses to safeguard the corporate elite’s exclusivity. The paper contributes to the extant neo-institutional literature on inequality by generating novel insights into the discursive micro-dynamics of corporate elites’ defensive institutional work which resist the deinstitutionalization of inequality through state regulative pressures. Furthermore, it contributes to the critically oriented literature on gender by showing how legislation, which promote gender equality in business, is resisted by corporate elites.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1942/18735
Category: C2
Type: Conference Material
Appears in Collections: Research publications

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