Why Bradford businesses should nurture their female talent

By | August 8, 2012


An interesting article has been published in Strategic Management Journal, one of the leading US academic publications. It presents a study into whether female representation in top management improves firm performance.  The study provides an additional perspective on a key finding by the Davies report on Women on Boards published in February 2011, namely that greater board diversity may have helped to avoid some of the catastrophic company failures in the recent economic recession. As stated in the Davies report women ask awkward questions and are less likely to be affected by groupthink.  A study in 2009 by Wilson and Altanlar identified a negative association between female directors and insolvency risk. Gender balance reduces risk since women generally have less appetite for risk.

TheDaviesReportWomenonBoardThe data source for the Strategic Management Journal article was the S&P 1,500 firms, an index of US public companies reflecting the US equity market, covering a period of 15 years.  The conclusions of the study were that  female representation in top management improves firm performance, but only to the extent that company strategy focuses on innovation. Importantly, the research finds no evidence that the presence of women on boards impairs performance.  However, the greater the focus on innovation in the company, the greater the effect of board gender diversity on performance.


Since innovation, whether in product, service, or systems, is critical for firm success and survival, the message to Bradford businesses must be – nurture your female talent and ensure strong female representation on your management team.  Not only is this likely to have a positive impact on your firm performance, but also it will also be highly motivational for  women middle managers, ensuring that there is pipeline of talent.

The latest update on the Davies report, published in March 2012, highlights significant progress towards the target of 25% women on FTSE 100 boards by 2015 – for the FTSE 100 the proportion of women on boards increased from 12.5% to 15.6% from 2010 to end February 2012, and  for the FTSE 250 from 7.8% to 9.6%.  The local Yorkshire-based  company, Inspirational Journey, has no doubt contributed significantly to this increase by raising the profile of gender balance in business.

About Dr Sarah Dixon

Dr Sarah Dixon, Dean of Bradford University School of Management, completed her MBA at Kingston University, subsequently joining them where she held a variety of roles, culminating in director of postgraduate programmes for the Faculty of Business and Law. Gaining a DBA from Henley Business School in the interim, she went on to research activity at the University of Bath taking on the role of head of MSc programmes.

Her business career at Royal Dutch Shell Group included petrochemicals business management in Vienna and Moscow and later positions in strategic planning and mergers and acquisitions in London. She moved into business consulting as director of the strategy consultancy, Albany Dixon Ltd before joining the School in September 2010.

Specialties: Strategy, Organizational change, Dynamic capabilities, Organisational learning

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