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„Men on Boards – Change Agents for Equality?“ (working title)

Researcher: Dr. Anja Kirsch

The aim of the research project “Men on Boards – Change Agents for Equality?” is to illuminate how corporate directors contribute to increasing women’s representation in leadership positions. This project focuses on the role of men on boards and asks why, when and how men on boards support increasing women’s representation in leadership positions. By focusing on the role of men, this project takes a novel, innovative perspective.

Theoretically we view organizations as places where social inequality between men and women is produced and reproduced (“gendered organizations”, see Acker 1990). These inequalities are created and maintained through social interaction between people in organizations (“doing gender”, see West & Zimmerman, 1987). Men’s influence on social and organizational expectations in relation to women in leadership positions, their careers, roles and behaviour are increasingly the focus of academic research (Kelan 2017). Policy advice also increasingly discusses the role of organizational cultural norms and the importance of sharing family responsibilities for augmenting women’s representation in leadership – in these areas, men’s behaviour is significant for enabling change (Catalyst 2009; Holst & Friedrich 2017). Taking a neo-institutional persprective, the law on equality for women and men in managerial positions (Gesetz für die gleichberechtigte Teilhabe von Frauen und Männern an Führungspositionen) is a new institution that provides actors with new ways to initiate change (Funder & May 2014). We will examine how men on boards support women in obtaining leadership positions, and explore their motives and the circumstances in which they take action.

We employ a qualitative research design and collect data using semi-structured interviews. Themes include how men on boards conceive of their role and their contributions to decision-making; whether and in which circumstances they have supported women in obtaining leadership positions, for example in the appointment of executives to the management board, in executive development and succession planning, and in the determination of targets for women’s representation in senior management; their motives, and whether they conceive of themselves as change agents.

 Dr. Anja Kirsch is a post-doctoral researcher at the Chair of Labor Politics, School of Business and Economics, Freie Universität Berlin. Her research interests include corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, gender & diversity in organizations, employment relations, leadership, and organizational change. In her current research she is examining the determinants and effects of diversity on supervisory boards.

Period: October 2018 – September 2019