Womanly Ways Benefit Corporate Boards


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The more women there are on a corporate board, the less a company pays for its acquisitions, according to a new report.

"Boards tend to be mostly older men who have worked together for a long time," said Patti Fletcher, CEO of PSDNetwork. "It seems almost human nature to get into group think. Decisions are made because the pressure to make strategic decisions, such as acquisitions, is very high and very competitive."

Published in the Journal of Corporate Finance, the Director Gender and Mergers and Acquisitions study discloses that the cost of a successful acquisition is reduced by 15.4% with each female director added on a board and that the presence of female directors reduces the number of a company's attempted takeover bids by 7.6%.

"Female board members play a significant role in mitigating the empire-building tendency of CEOs through the acquisition of other companies," said Kai Li, a profess or finance at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business and a co-author of the study.

The research results imply women are less interested in pursuing risky transactions and require the promise of a higher return on investment.

"On average, merger and acquisition transactions don't create shareholder value so women are having a real impact in protecting shareholder investment and overall firm performance," said Li.

In addition, adding women to male-only boardrooms adds diverse perspectives to the conversation, helping to steer away from group think.

"Research indicates that diverse teams provide better results by adding value to the bottom line and driving innovation," said Brande Stellings, vice president of Catalyst Corporate Board Services. "Gender-diverse boards are associated with higher-quality corporate social responsibility initiatives and philanthropy."

Women currently hold 16.9% of Fortune 500 board seats compared to 15.2% in 2008, according to the 2013 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Women Board Directors.

"The question companies should be asking themselves is why wouldn't you want more women serving on corporate boards," Stellings told MainStreet. "When the business case for gender-diverse boards is this clear and when the talent is out there, it's simply embarrassing that the number of women on corporate boards has not inched upwards in the last 8 years."

Researchers analyzed a large sample of acquisition bids made by S&P 1500 companies in the United States between 1997 and 2009.

"Our findings show that the prudence exhibited by women directors in negotiating mergers and acquisitions has had a substantial positive effect on maintaining firm value," Li said.

For now, the trend of adding more women board members is catching on internationally.

"Findings add fire and force to recent calls to mandate a minimum number of women on the boards of publicly traded companies," Li said.

All companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange are required to have three women on their board of directors by 2020 or face delisting from the exchange.

--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet

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