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  • Erin Bass

Latest Research Alert: Diversity and Speaking Up on Boards

Have you ever worked on something that really mattered to you, and you just had to see it out to the end, no matter the setbacks? That was the case for me and my latest research project.

In our paper titled, From Seats at the Table to Voices in the Discussion: Antecedents of Underrepresented Director Participation in Board Meetings recently published in the Journal of Management Studies, my co-authors--Chris, David, Cam, Len, and I look at board director participation on corporate boards.

Here's out main argument--it's not enough to harness the power of diversity by having minorities hold seats at the table. Minority board members have to be able to participate in board discussions, which means boards need to create environments in which all people are willing to speak up and have their voices be heard.

We coded US corporate board meeting transcripts to identify how much each board member spoke, and had some striking findings. Minority directors do participate less--however, there are other minority directors on the board, their participation increases. Additionally, if they have achieved some level of professional status in their career--be it serving in a public or private leadership role--(or the other minority director(s) have achieved such status), their participation increases.

So what are the practical implications of this research? First, if you serve on a board (or even work in a team setting) pay attention to participation. You don't want to miss out on anyone's perspective. Second, create boards (and teams) that have seats for many diverse perspectives.

I started this post by mentioning setbacks...we started this research in 2013. We first presented it at a conference in 2014. Then after too many revisions at too many journals, it finally found a home in 2022. Thank you, Journal of Management Studies, for giving us that home--it was worth the fight.


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