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Institutional Resistance: All-Male Boards in the 21st Century


According to institutional theory, isomorphism enables firms to acquire a license-to-operate and vital organizational resources. Yet, organizational fields often include small numbers of organizations that resist prevalent institutionalized norms. We study what sets institutional resistors apart from their conforming peers. We hypothesize that organizations with features which shield them from institutional pressures (reduced susceptibility) or compel them to ignore specific norms (reduced receptivity) are most likely to follow a strategy of institutional resistance. Empirically, we focus on major publicly traded corporations resisting mounting pressures to include women on boards. We find support for our hypotheses in a panel of S&P500 firms from 2003-2012. Specifically, all-male boards are more likely in firms which are comparatively less visible than their peers or primarily engage in business-to-business sales, reducing their susceptibility to institutional pressures. Moreover, all-male boards are more likely in firms with more inside directors, older directors, as well as those head-quartered in more conservative communities, reducing their receptivity for the institutional norm in question. We discuss implications for institutional theory and research on corporate social responsibility.

Bjoern Mitzinneck, Glen Dowell, Judith Walls

1 Jan 2017

Item Type
Conference or Workshop Item