CEO gender, critical mass of board gender diversity, and ESG performance: UK evidence



Al-Shaer H, Zaman M & Albitar K (2024) CEO gender, critical mass of board gender diversity, and ESG performance: UK evidence. Journal of Accounting Literature.

Purpose This study investigates the relationship between CEO leadership, gender homophily and corporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance. We also investigate whether it is essential to have a critical mass of women directors on the board to create a significant power of gender diversity in leadership positions. Design/methodology/approach Our study is based on firms listed on the London Stock Exchange (FTSE-All-Share) from 2011 to 2019. CEO characteristics and other board variables were collected from BoardEx, and ESG data, and other related variables were collected from Eikon database. Findings We find a critical mass of female directors contributes to ESG performance suggesting that token representation of female directors on boards limits their effectiveness. We do not find support for the gender homophily perspective, our findings suggest that the effectiveness of female CEOs does not depend on the existence of a critical mass of female directors. Female directors and female CEOs are less likely to be associated with ESG activities when firms experience poor financial performance. We also find that younger female CEOs have a positive impact on ESG performance. Furthermore, we find female CEOs with shorter tenure are more likely to improve ESG performance. Overall, our findings suggest a substitutional effect between having female CEOs and gender diverse boards. Originality/value This study contributes to the debate on gender homophily in the boardroom and how that may affect ESG practices. It also complements existing academic research on female leadership and ESG performance and has important implications for senior management and policymakers.

CEOs; ESG performance; gender; critical mass; homophily

Journal of Accounting Literature

StatusIn Press
Publication date online31/05/2024
Date accepted by journal14/03/2024

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Professor Habiba Al-Shaer

Professor Habiba Al-Shaer

Professor in Accounting, Accounting & Finance