Gender diversity in the boardroom key for LGBT friendly firms

Article title: Do women advance equity? The effect of gender leadership composition on LGBT- friendly policies in American firms

From Human Relations in partnership with The Tavistock Institute

This article finds that diversity in the boardroom is key to advancing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)- inclusive polices. Evidence suggests that discrimination, homophobia and workplace hostility limit the employment prospects and career mobility of LGBT individuals. In order to recruit, hire and retain the most talented and skilled workers – irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity – firms have begun adopting and implementing policies aimed at building an inclusive workplace.

Such policies benefit not only LGBT individuals but companies themselves, including improved stock performance and higher rates of productivity and worker commitment. Yet while many companies have adopted these polices, many others have not.

By analyzing the policies of all Fortune 500 firms over a 10-year period the researchers found that: “while women CEOs are vital for advancing a company’s commitment to domestic partnership benefits and gender identity non-discrimination polices, diverse boards are associated with the full range of LGBT-inclusive policies and practices.”



We advance the literature on the demographic factors that shape organizational outcomes by analyzing the impact of the gender composition of firm leadership on the likelihood that a firm will adopt lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)-friendly policies. Drawing on social role and token theory, we test the relative impact of CEO gender and the gender composition of the board of directors separately and together in order to identify the effects of gender diversity at the top of the organization. We rely on a unique data set that includes corporate policies (gender identity and sexual orientation non-discrimination policies, domestic-partner benefits, and overall corporate equality index scores) as well as the gender of the CEO and board of directors among Fortune 500 firms over a 10-year period. Our findings suggest that firms with genderdiverse boards are more likely than other firms to offer LGBT-friendly policies, whereas findings for firms with women CEOs offer mixed results.


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Article details
Alison Cook and Christy Glass
Do women advance equity? The effect of gender leadership composition on LGBT-friendly policies in American firms Human Relations 0018726715611734, first published on February 3, 2016 doi:10.1177/0018726715611734




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