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September 17, 2009


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Ediberto Roman

An interesting group of posts. They raise important issues, especially for those that teach in the corporate area and contend with soft legal concepts such as social responsibilty. In light of these writings, I would ask the authors what value, if any, they would place on board dversity. Perhaps that was not the goal of this research or the posts for that matter. However, this reader is nonetheless left wondering what would be authors exhaustive answer to this issue.

Ediberto Roman

Kim Krawiec

Thanks for your comment, Ediberto. You’re correct that the project is designed as a purely descriptive ethnographic one – what do corporate insiders say about whether board diversity is important and, if so, why? And then, secondarily, to illuminate logical or internal inconsistencies in those narratives. So the project wasn’t designed to answer the bottom-line question of whether board diversity adds value and, in fact, can’t answer it.

Having said that, I think that our next paper will touch on at least two counterexamples to the story of incoherence that we put forward in the first paper. Those two relate to the role that a diverse board may play in (1) diversifying the senior management pool when determining issues of succession, and (2) recruiting, training, and retaining women and minorities in management, including lower-level management.

We did not see these counterexamples with all diverse boards. Not all female or minority directors mentioned these as issues of interest, whereas others were clearly quite committed. Moreover, it takes more than one director to make a difference here – it takes other willing board members and, with respect to item (2) above, a willing CEO as well. So we don’t see this across the board, but we saw it enough to be interesting, I think.

I should add that, even if it is true that diverse boards perform these functions better than nondiverse ones, the respondents’ claims that this is good for business are themselves contested claims. But at least now we’re talking about redistributing opportunities on a broad scale – you can imagine that at least some people would consider this a worthy goal, even in the absence of a bottom-line profit impact.

So I hope that our next paper will provide further insight. Best, Kim

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