We integrate the resource dependence and institutional economics theories to theorise and test the global drivers of female board representation on corporate boards. We examine both female board percentage (inclusiveness) and female board turnover (sustainability). Using a longitudinal panel dataset of 1071 firms across 42 countries over a 10-year period (2004 to 2013) and qualitative interviews of 25 female board members from four countries, we find support for our predictions. The resource dependence variable of female economic empowerment (female education and employment levels in a country) related positively to female board percentage and negatively to female board turnover. However, the institutional economics variable of female board legislative quotas related positively to both female board percentage and turnover. We also found that female economic empowerment and female board legislative quotas interacted positively and reinforced each other's effects in predicting female board percentage but did not interact in influencing female board turnover. The qualitative interviews shed light on the underlying mechanisms of these relationships as prescribed in the two theories. Our study illuminates the importance of utilising a multi-theoretic approach in explaining the global nature of the female board representation phenomenon.
We adopt the institutional economics perspective to explain the global drivers of female representation on corporate boards. Based on a sample of 1071 largest global firms from 42 countries between 2004 and 2013, we found two major results. First, legislative gender board quotas (formal institutions) and gender diversity requirement in corporate governance codes (informal institutions) in the home country related positively to female board percentage. Second, the two institutional drivers interacted positively and reinforced each other in enhancing female board percentage. Our study highlights the role of institutional drivers in shaping female board representation globally. The interaction of quotas and corporate governance codes is insightful in addressing the controversy surrounding legislative gender board quotas and has important policy implications.