Governance

Five years after Lehman Brothers: About gender diversity in the board in the Netherlands

July 28, 2014

"Would the world be in this financial mess if it had been Lehman Sisters?" In February 2009, this question was asked at The World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos during one of the panels. In a New York Times article, journalist Katrin Bennhold describes this incident and adds that it "certainly hit a nerve with some of the more defensive male participants at the WEF".

Image: © Nationale Beeldbank

The article in the New York Times continues with some interesting quotes from people present at the Davos panels. Micro-financing pioneer Muhammad Yunus, for example, said the current crisis would almost certainly not have happened if women had shaped financial practices. According to Yunus, women "wouldn't have taken the enormous types of risks that brought the system down." Neelie Kroes, previous Minister for the Dutch Government and European competition commissioner, was "absolutely convinced that testosterone was one of the reasons the financial system had been brought to its knees". Kroes added that "in general terms, females are a bit less ego-driven and a bit more responsible than men." Subsequently, an interesting quote comes from Christine Lagarde, current Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, but at that time Minister of Finance in the French Government. She comments on the very few women being present at the WEF and said that this "illustrated two shortcomings of the past years, one, this is a world where there is too little diversity, and two, there is too much herding behavior." 

One might believe that due to these kinds of discussions, arguments and the renewed attention about gender diversity, particularly when also driven by the financial crises, that the number of women directors since 2008 would have increased. In this paper Mijntje Lückerath, professor of Corporate Governance, will show that, at least in The Netherlands, this is not the case for Dutch-listed companies.

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