19-20 December 2013: A Workshop on Diversity in Boards at De Nederlandsche Bank in Amsterdam.

Diversity in Boards
19-20 December 2013: A Workshop on Diversity in Boards at De Nederlandsche Bank in Amsterdam. Selected papers will be published in a special issue of Corporate Governance : An international review. Please use this link for the programme, papers and slides: link        
 
Board Diversity Conference: Debunking a Common Myth 
 
Governance scholars from across the globe and several policymakers gathered at the Dutch Central Bank on the 19th  and 20th of December to discuss recent scientific insights on board diversity and their policy implications. The conference brought scholars in finance and governance together. A special issue on board diversity of ‘Corporate Governance: An International Review’ will be published incorporating some of the papers presented at the conference http://www.dnb.nl/en/onderzoek-2/test-conferences/other-conferences/programmes/dnb300990.jsp

Diversit in Boards
Board diversity is a topic of heated debate, with some governments establishing gender quotas for publicly traded and/or state owned enterprises and others merely offering guidelines for diversity. So is gender diversity good for performance because it leads to better decision making and increased firm performance?

Although intuition suggests that diversity leads to increased available information and different perspectives, academic research does not demonstrate a clear relationship between board diversity and effective board functioning. Indeed, the overall conclusion of the conference was that while there may be many benefits to board diversity, there are certainly also challenges. While diversity may stimulate the pool of available information, it may also lead to increased conflict and communication problems. As such, it is difficult to make a business case for diversity.

Diversity in Boards
Several papers presented focused on gender diversity, but this is only one aspect of diversity. A board can be diverse in many other aspects, besides gender diversity, for instance, nationalities, age, tenure, work experience, education, or even personalities. One of the most important obstacles to research on boards is access to boards. Governance scholars are often forced to link – publicly observable – board diversity to firm performance, essentially treating the board as a black box.

All in all, the conference provided a stimulating environment for policy makers and governance scholars to discuss their work. While policy makers were perhaps more optimistic about the consequences of board diversity, governance scholars opted for a more nuanced perspective on diversity acknowledging both the positive and negative sides of diversity.