April 7, 2016

THIS IS A SURPRISE ONLY TO THOSE WHO WEREN’T PAYING ATTENTION: No, Gender Diversity Doesn’t Boost Corporate Profits.

The fact that women are dramatically underrepresented at the highest tiers of American corporate leadership—and that, for many years, they were greeted with discrimination and dismissal when they tried to break in—has given rise to an understandable effort, especially at elite financial and technology companies, to increase gender diversity on corporate boards. Initially, feminists argued that such efforts were important as a matter of basic fairness—to redress the effects of discrimination, past and present. Recently, however, some of the more ardent champions of corporate diversity have taken to making a different, and more provocative, argument: that increasing the share of women on boards and workgroups dramatically improves companies’ economic performance.

The problem, argues Northwestern University Professor Alice Eagly in a recent paper in the Journal of Social Issues, is that such claims—while usually backed by the best of intentions—simply don’t hold up under scrutiny. They are based on a combination of substandard research, a misreading of that research by impassioned political activists, and the failure of social scientists to act as “honest brokers” when they “produce findings that are not what advocates want to hear.”

Social “science” tends to be more social than science.

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