Interrogating diversity: Feminism and the destructuration of Australian board appointment practices

Publication Name

Corporate Governance: An International Review


Research Question/Issue: How have social movements influenced the diversity of Australian corporate leadership? Although board diversity is crucial for corporate governance, the research in this topic is bifurcated between studies examining interlocking directorates and the presence of boardroom gender diversity. Research Findings/Insights: In this study, we use a novel dataset and method to understand board diversity. We integrate the analysis of social diversity (structural connections) and demographic diversity among ASX50 boards in 2019 and 2023. Social network analysis (SNA) reveals a closely connected corporate community, with prosopography data identifying a narrow range of “acceptable” demographic characteristics. Theoretical/Academic Implications: We extend institutional theory by examining the role of global social movements (GSMs) for the destructuration of board appointment practices and the resulting uneven progress on equality. Activism from the global feminist movement has applied multi-dimensional coercive and normative pressures to develop a “pipeline” and “catalyst” for women's board appointments. Simultaneously, the absence of targeted action on other diversities and the intensification of directors' professional requirements have institutionalized the group's social and demographic profile. Practitioner/Policy Implications: These findings are relevant to policymakers and corporations, highlighting the role of social movements for disrupting the status quo and the multidimensional institutional pressures needed to destructure entrenched appointment practices.

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