suggests that women in board and executive roles may act as agents of change in

Suggests that women in board and executive roles may

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suggests that women in board and executive roles may act as ‘agents of change’ in pushing for organisational policies, practices, and cultures that improve the female-friendliness of workplaces (Cohen and Huffman, 2007). As suggested by social psychological theories of homosocial reproduction (Kanter, 1977) and same-gender preference (Gorman, 2005), gender creates a common interest that motivates individuals in decision-making positions to promote the interests of same-sex subordinates. For example, almost all the female board- members and CEOs interviewed by Konrad et al. (2008) were taking action to promote women’s careers within the firm, from mentoring to requesting diversity reports. There are two main mechanisms through which the benefits of gender diversity in top jobs may trickle down to other women within the firm. On the one hand, women in executive and board positions may actively create opportunities for junior women. For instance, in line with theories of homosocial reproduction, a study of hiring practices across US law firms found that a woman’s odds of bei ng hired were 13 per cent higher in firms led by a female partner than a male partner (Gorman, 2005). Senior women can also act as mentors for junior women, providing access to networks, training them in firm-specific skills, and directing them to developmental opportunities (e.g. Kurtulus and Tomaskovic-Devey, 2012; Gagliarducci and Paserman, 2015). On the other hand, women in executive and board positions may instigate cultural shifts within the firm that benefit other women working in the company, including those with whom female board members and executives have no direct contact. Studies show that women managers are often key champions of programmes designed to increase workplace diversity, such as diversity training measures and specialist networks for women and other identity groups who
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11 are disadvantaged by white male privilege (Dobbin et al., 2011). Relatedly, empirical evidence has shown an association between a higher proportion of women in authority positions and the provision of family-friendly policies and flexible-working options at the firm-level, such as work-at-home options, on-site care facilities, and parental leaves beyond statutory minima (e.g. Dancaster and Baird, 2016). These workplace policies can support women further down the company’s hierarchy including those at the lowest levels - to keep their jobs and progress within the firm following childbirth or the emergence of other family responsibilities (e.g. a parent becomes frail) , which fall disproportionately on women’s shoulders . Relatedly, firm-level paternity leaves that supplement or substitute for state provision can encourage men to take on a greater share of domestic tasks. At the same time, through enabling women ’s employment continuity, firm-level family policies can improve women’s access to employment and earnings-related state benefits, including pensions, as well as their abilities to build up adequate occupational pension pots. This, in turn, provides further protection against the
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