An eminent Economics professor gives his view on the causal link between increasing gender balance in the boardroom, and enhanced corporate performance

John Van Reenen is a Professor in the Department of Economics, and Director of the Centre for Economic Performance, at the London School of Economics. He also serves on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Industrial Economics. It would be hard to imagine anyone more professionally qualified to comment on the causal link (if any) between increased female representation in the boardroom and enhanced corporate performance – a link which is confidently and frequently asserted by the prime minister, a number of cabinet ministers and junior ministers, the CBI and others, to justify ‘improved’ gender balance in the boardroom.

On 16 February 2012 I emailed Professor Van Reenen the press release relating to the open letter I recently sent to the Director General of the CBI, John Cridland, concerning the CBI’s position in this area (see earlier post). I asked Professor Van Reenen whether the LSE (or specifically the Centre for Economic Performance) had any evidence of a causal link between increasing the proportion of women in the boardroom, and enhanced corporate performance: and if he did, could he kindly share it with me, because I’ve been seeking such evidence for years without finding any. Professor Van Reenen this evening emailed me the following:

‘I personally don’t know of any such evidence, and I am sceptical that there would be a positive causal effect’.

As they say in France, ‘Je reste ma valise’.

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