Gender Equality in the role of Independent Directors. Is it linked to sustainability?





Gender Equality, Independent Directors, Sustainability, Boards of Directors, Ethics


The growing interest in social, environmental, and ethical aspects of business has underscored the need for a change of course from the typically male composition of Boards of Directors (BoD). Too often, in the past, management and board positions were delegated to men, not only based on competence, but also because of cultural biases and “male traditions”. Falling behind on this issue, and particularly with reference to gender equality related to the concepts of sustainability and ethics, would certainly mean missing new opportunities in value creation for companies. In this sometimes precarious, yet steadily increasing scenario, the important figure of the Independent Director (ID) and his gender, is too often overlooked. This figure, in fact, works concretely in the interest of the company and shareholders, overseeing and guiding the company itself in the right direction. Due to his non-executive role in the board, the ID, as opposed to the internal members of the BoD, enjoys an autonomous point of view.

The purpose of this paper, in a nutshell, is to examine this important profile from a gender perspective in order to observe the statistics with respect to the number, effectiveness, and performance of the female gender in this role. In addition to the phenomenon of detecting the performance of the IDs, the issue has also gained ethical importance, for example, in the same sustainable "good governance" strategies that have arisen in the past fifteen years. For this reason, in our view, the presence or absence of female IDs must necessarily also be read in terms of its impact on sustainability, as its cue for encouragement and outreach. The study concludes with a factual discussion of the empirical analysis conducted on a sample of thirteen banks in the Italian scenario, with reference to the present and the gender of the IDs. Through this statistical study, it was possible to draw a clear picture in support of the literature examined for the relationship between sustainable practices and female IDs, creating also a link between the theory analyzed and the practice identified in this field of research.