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The Gender and Ethnic Diversity of US Boards and Board Committees and Firm Financial Performance


Spears School of Business, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078-4011, USA. E-mail:


Manuscript Type: Empirical

Research Question/Issue: We examine the business case for the inclusion of women and ethnic minority directors on the board. Specifically, we investigate the relationship between the number of women directors and the number of ethnic minority directors on the board and important board committees and financial performance measured as return on assets and Tobin's Q.

Research Findings/Insights: We do not find a significant relationship between the gender or ethnic diversity of the board, or important board committees, and financial performance for a sample of major US corporations. Our evidence also suggests that the gender and ethnic minority diversity of the board and firm financial performance appear to be endogenous.

Theoretical/Academic Implications: Reasonable theoretical arguments drawn from resource dependence theory, human capital theory, agency theory, and social psychology suggest that gender and ethnic diversity may have either a positive, negative, or neutral effect on the financial performance of the firm. Our statistical analysis supports the theoretical position of no effect, either positive or negative. Our results are consistent with a contingency explanation because the effect of the gender and ethnic diversity of the board may be different under different circumstances at different times. Over several companies and time periods, the results could offset to produce no effect.

Practitioner/Policy Implications: The results of our analysis do not support the business case for inclusion of women and ethnic minorities on corporate boards. However, we find no evidence of any negative effect either. Our evidence implies that decisions concerning the appointment of women and ethnic minorities to corporate boards should be based on criteria other than future financial performance.