Women in the inner circle: Gender and director networks after the fracturing of the corporate elite

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Over the past two decades, women have increased their representation among multiboard directors-corporate directors who simultaneously hold seats on two or more firms. Traditionally, multiboard directors exercised greater power and influence in corporate governance. As a consequence, women's increased representation among this "inner circle"could signal women's increased influence in corporate governance. However, women's access to these elite positions comes at a time when multiboard holding has declined. This paper investigates gendered patterns in access to and outcomes of multiboard holding. I argue that these patterns reflect gendered logics in director appointment practices such that firms increasingly recruit and appoint highly boarded female directors, but multiboard women continue to lag in substantive influence in the boardroom. Analyses of nearly two decades of data on S&P 1500 boards demonstrate female directors' increased access to the corporate inner-circle, but this access is decoupled from increased participation in board committees and interorganizational social influence. I discuss implications for theory on gender tokenism, corporate networks, and board processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1492-1522
Number of pages31
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • Board interlocks
  • Corporate governance
  • Female directors
  • Gender

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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