Public Attention to Gender Equality and Board Gender Diversity

Mariassunta Giannetti and Tracy Yue Wang

We document that heightened public attention to gender equality is associated with an increase in board gender diversity. Improvements in diversity are more pronounced in firms with a corporate culture that is already sympathetic to gender equality. When public attention to gender equality increases, firms reach out to a larger pool of women, such as women without industry experience or outside their network, but female director appointments do not appear to be dilutive of the board’s skills. Instead, we observe less reliance on connections for director appointments and a decrease in the propensity to appoint connected men.