Social movement spillover: Barriers to board gender diversity posed by contemporary governance reform

Elsevier, Leadership Quarterly, Volume 31, December 2020
Geletkanycz M.A.
Managerial oversight is strengthened and firms' strategic performance improved when boards are gender-diverse. Yet the rate of women's appointment to corporate boards is decelerating. This study proposes an explanation for the unexpected attenuation rooted in social movement dynamics, particularly cross-movement influences originating from the contemporary governance reform movement. Seeking to alleviate managerialist tendencies, the governance reform movement has compelled major changes to board structure, composition, and activity, as well as the broader logic surrounding corporate boards. By definition, social movements' cognitive and structural advances manifest “spillover” effects – unintentional impacts affecting the opportunity structure, and ultimately progress, of neighboring campaigns. Drawing on social movement theory, a conceptual model is outlined explicating the mechanisms by which governance reform's broad enactments have incidentally impeded board gender diversity's advance. Theoretically-grounded strategies for reversing those effects are also outlined and the study closes with a discussion of implications for research, practice, and policy.