William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law
With the thought that new perspectives often can be helpful in addressing long-standing unresolved questions, this article approaches an analysis of women’s roles on corporate boards of directors from the standpoint of crowd theory. Crowd theory — in reality, a group of theories — explains the behavior of people in crowds. Specifically, this article describes theories of the crowd from social psychology and applies them to the literature on female corporate directors, looking at the effects on both women as crowd members and boards as decision-making crowds.
Unfortunately, while the crowd theory perspective provides some insights, they are not altogether conclusive. Specifically, while women may bring distinct ideas and experience to boards of directors when they become board members, crowd theory does not provide a clear picture of the nature or extent of those differences or how they may contribute to productive, efficient board decision making. More work still is needed in this area. However, existing research does indicate that women encourage productive board development activities — activities that may include, for example, introducing the board to structures and policies that may promote board wisdom. This is a useful insight that should be further explored.
Note: This short article was solicited in honor of the 20th anniversary of the William & Mary Journal of Woman and the Law, for which I had earlier authored a symposium piece. The published paper is also part of a February 2015 symposium in celebration of the journal's two decades of publication.
Heminway, Joan M., "Women in the Crowd of Corporate Directors: Following, Walking Alone, and Meaningfully Contributing" (2014). UTK Law Faculty Publications. 852.