Money & The Economy

DUH: Investors More Likely to View Female Execs as ‘Tokens’ When Companies Use Gender Quotas

The University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) College of Business researchers found that women are viewed more as “tokens” in the workplace when a gender-based hiring quota is put in place, according to the study published in January 2023.

Gender quota laws, like was passed in California, require companies to place a specific number of women on company boards. Professors Jessica Rixom, Mark Jackson and Brett Rixom found in their research that investors view women executives as “tokens” when companies appoint the exact number of women to fulfill a quota, but are perceived as tokens less when companies exceed quota, according to the study’s abstract.

“We find evidence that under a quota system, U.S. market participants tend to view female directors as tokens when the firm is just at the quota minimum, and these perceptions both affect their view of the firm’s prospects and negatively influence investment decisions,” the abstract reads. “Importantly, however, we find that these negative effects can be offset and that resource dependence theory holds if the firm exceeds the quota, signaling that the hiring of female directors is not simply compliance-dependent and subsequently leading U.S. market participants to invest more resources in the firm.”

Researchers conducted the study by manipulating the number of female board members at a firm using 207 crowdsourced participants, according to the abstract.

“While our research highlights the problem of increased tokenism perceptions that mandated quotas can bring, it also highlights a potential solution,” Jessica Rixom said, according to a Wednesday Nevada Today article. “Firms can reduce perceptions of tokenism and the associated stigma by exceeding the minimum required mandate.”

The researchers used California gender quota laws as a model for conducting their study. While such laws aim to foster diversity in the workplace, Jackson suggested the laws could result in employees viewing minority members as “less qualified” and that those members could feel as though they were not hired based on merit.

“It is generally accepted that a more diverse board will be more effective, as different points of view and life experiences will better equip a board to lead the firm,” Brett Rixom told Nevada Today. “What we question is the efficacy of a quota law to achieve better gender diversity on the boards of public firms. Instead of rushing to legislation like quotas to increase minority representation, lawmakers can consider whether their solution may undermine the very individuals they are trying to promote.”

The researchers did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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