Has the time come for bolder policies for diversity at the top of the corporation?



 December 10, 2010

8:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Venue: The Italian Academy
1161 Amsterdam Avenue (between 117th and 118th Streets), New York
directions and online map)

Co-hosted by:

The Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College and the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Center for Leadership and Ethics

Please register online. Conference fee: $45 if register before November 22; otherwise $60.

The path breaking study by Rosabeth Moss Kanter proposed that women would not have easy access to top management since they lacked critical mass. In almost all countries, the percentage of female CEOs is less than 5 percent, and female board directors hover between 10 and 15 percent. Given that university graduates are now over 50 percent female and the labor forces are also nearly equally divided by gender, the lack of penetration of women to the top of the corporation is stunning. The implication, sometimes contested, is that there are simply not enough women to change beliefs and clubs that influence the selection of top officers of the corporation. As of 2008, Norway imposed penalties for public and state-owned enterprises that failed to achieve a target of 40 percent of directors to be female. The few studies done on this experiment, which is being implemented elsewhere in Europe, indicate that the social justice goals of quotas also impose costs. In some cases, firms anticipated these costs and exited Norway or public listings; for those that stayed, one study showed that financial performance fell. At the same time, other research indicates that increasing diversity improves performance and increasing women changes the agenda of issues to be addressed and improves governance. What do we know about bold policies for creating diversity at the top of the corporation? What is the effect of these policies?

This conference, jointly organized by the Athena Center for Leadership Studies and the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Center for Ethics and Leadership, will bring together academic and practitioner thought leaders to discuss what research and experience has told us about ways to increase diversity at the top. The conference takes for granted that diversity has an important property of social justice and other benefits, but to this adds the question at what cost to private liberties and economic performance. This half-day event begins with a keynote address followed by two panels and active debate.

Speakers include:
Esther Duflo, Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics, MIT
Debora Spar, President, Barnard College
Ann Bartel, Merrill Lynch Professor of Workforce Transformation; Chair, Economics Subdivision, Columbia Business School
Barbara Colwell BUS ’80, Former Executive Director, ThinkQuest NYC
James DeGraffenreidt BUS ’78, Former chairman and CEO of WGL Holdings, Inc
Amy Dittmar, Associate Professor of Finance, Stephen M. Ross School of Business
Sheila Hooda, Senior Managing Director, TIAA-CREF
Gita Johar, Meyer Feldberg Professor of Business; Vice Dean for Research, Columbia Business School
Bruce Kogut, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Professor of Leadership and Ethics; Director, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Center, Columbia Business School
Mona Lena Krook, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Women and Gender Studies, Washington University in St. Louis
Kathryn Kolbert, Director, Athena Center for Leadership Studies; Professor of Leadership Studies, Barnard College
David Ross, Assistant Professor, Columbia Business School
Susan Sturm, George M. Jaffin Professor of Law and Social Responsibility, Columbia Law School
Gillian Tett, US Managing Editor, Financial Times

Conference schedule and related academic papers are available at: