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Women on Boards

New research shows that projection of self-confident is not enough for women to gain credit unless this is coupled with prosocial orientation


Forthcoming research

Appearing Self-Confident and Getting Credit for It: Why It may be Easier for Men than Women to Gain Influence at Work

Human Resource Management (forthcoming)



Appearing self-confident is instrumental for progressing at work. However, little is known about what makes individuals appear self-confident at work. We draw on attribution and social perceptions literatures to theorize about both antecedents and consequences of appearing self-confident for men and women in male-dominated professions. We suggest that performance is one determinant of whether individuals are seen as confident at work, and that this effect is moderated by gender. We further propose that self-confidence appearance increases the extent to which individuals exert influence in their organizations. However, for women, appearing self-confident is not enough to gain influence. In contrast to men, women in addition are “required” to be prosocially oriented. Multisource, time-lag data from a technological company showed that performance had a positive effect on self-confidence appearance for both men and women. However, the effect of self-confidence appearance on organizational influence was moderated by gender and prosocial orientation, as predicted. Our results show that through self-confidence appearance, job performance directly enables men to exert influence in their organizations. In contrast, high performing women gain influence only when self-confidence appearance is coupled with prosocial orientation. We discuss the implications of our results for gender equality, leadership, and social perceptions.



Put Women in Charge of Uber

18 July 2017 | Rachael Noyes, INSEAD Knowledge Europe Editor

Putting women on boards and in executive positions could be the quick fix that sexist Silicon Valley needs. The blog post presents various research evidence suggesting the benefits of having more women on boards.


Book Chapter

Impossible Selves: Image Strategies and Identity Threat in Professional Women's Career Transitions in Theorizing Women & Leadership: New Insights & Contributions from Multiple Perspectives (Women and Leadership) P. Haber-Curran and J. Storberg-Walker (Eds.) Information Age Publishing (2017)



This chapter extends our understanding of the paucity of women in senior leadership positions by identifying specific identity mechanisms that can hinder junior women’s transitions to more senior roles. We introduce the term impossible selves to describe these cultural prescriptions for leadership identity and behavior that many junior women found unattainable.

In the two male dominated firms we studied the cultural prescriptions for a leader’s identity were associated with a traditionally masculine demeanor. We argue that second generation gender bias — cultural beliefs about gender, as well as workplace structures, practices, and patterns of interaction that inadvertently favor men — inhibited women from engaging in image and identity work that would align them with these cultural prescriptions.

This transformed organizational models of success into impossible selves for the women in these demographically skewed contexts. Instead of working towards the organizational model of success we found that women engaged in image and identity work to craft a leader identity that allowed them to feel authentic and avoid disapproval from clients and colleagues.

Women’s efforts to remain authentic, however, undermined their ability to craft identities that were congruent with the kind of professional they aspired to become.

Read related Working Paper (2016/12/OBH)

First Emirati woman receives the INSEAD Certificate in Corporate Governance

Hala Badri, Executive Vice President of Brand and Communications at du, paves the way as the first Emirati woman to complete the programme, thus forging a path for women in the UAE to play a significant role in the country’s economy.

Read the press release

Read Journal articles

What’s Keeping Women From the Corporate Heights?

January 2015

Prof. Ludo Van der Heyden takes a thorough look into recent research investigating why women are still kept out of top jobs. He says the cycles perpetuating the problem must be broken by regulation – such as a quota for women on boards – and hopefully, such regulations will only be needed temporarily.


GBRW - Global Board Ready Women Searchable Data Base

The European Business Schools/Women on Board initiative of which INSEAD is a founding member supports European Commission's former Vice President Reding’s initiative to shatter the glass ceiling for women in Europe’s publicly listed corporation’s board rooms and launched a Global Board Ready Women network of board-ready women to bring Europe into the 21st Century.

This is an international network of women qualified to sit on a board.  This list is hosted on LinkedIn as a professional LinkedIn Group.

  • Boards and Search firms, click here to request information

INSEAD Professor Ludo Van der Heyden received the TIAW World of Difference 100 Award - 2014

Professor Ludo Van der Heyden says not only should boards become more gender diverse but also that it is "absurd and not normal” that there are corporations with no women in their executive ranks. His view is without quotas, nothing will change, noting that the current rate of 1% improvement per year is unacceptable.

Women in Economic Decision-Making Panel

World Economic Forum, Davos, 25 January 2013

A Davos panel chaired by INSEAD Professor Herminia Ibarra, with Christine Lagarde, IMF MD, Viviane Reding, EU VP & Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg among the panelists, discusses the benefits of having more women in senior decision-making roles.

INSEAD supports the EU effort on gender diversity
and answers EU Call for Public Consultation - 2012

INSEAD answers EU call for public consultation
on "Gender Imbalance in Corporate Boards in the EU"

Mirjam Staub-Bisang, INSEAD Board Member, participated in the luncheon with Viviane Reding with leaders of Europe's business schools and industry on 19 June 2012.

ICGI Webinar: Women on Boards

13 December 2012

This webinar was devoted to the topic of women in senior business leadership roles, both at executive and board levels. The representation of women in senior business ranks has virtually not changed for years, despite considerable organizational investment in diversity initiatives. 

Professor Herminia Ibarra started the discussion by sharing her latest research on the question on how women get fewer of the game-changing roles that lead to the executive director level.   Then Professor Ludo Van der Heyden turned to the issue of gender diversity at board level, which is an issue that also suffers from the poor percentage of women in senior leadership roles. They also discussed the evidence on board performance and gender diversity.  

Faculty Interviews

The EU's Boardroom Quota Battle Is Over, But Women Cannot Yet Rest

INSEAD Professors Annet Aris and Herminia Ibarra respond to the passing of a European law that requires women to represent 40 percent of company board members by 2020.

Struggle in the Boardroom

Professor Van der Heyden. The prospect of mandatory quotas for women on European company boards seems to have receded, but European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding’s campaign for quotas has pushed the issue of gender diversity firmly to the forefront of public debate. What happens next will depend as much on corporate leaders as on politicians.

Locked out of the boardroom

An interview with Herminia Ibarra, The Cora Chaired Professor of Leadership and Learning, Prof of Organisational Behaviour.

When new rules mandating seats for women on corporate boards go into effect in Europe next year, on which side will you be sitting?

First Diversity

An interview with Strategy Professor Annet Aris

For companies to be competitive, they should think strategically and unconventionally about the composition of their board.

Women for Supervisory Boards Workshops

ERT, London, 24-25 October 2012 and 9-10 September 2013

The European Roundtable of Industrialists organises a two-day workshops specifically designed for women holding senior positions in the frame of their initiative for the advancement of women in Business.

ICGI is in charge of the programme. Last year, Professors Herminia Ibarra and Stanislav Shekshnia hold sessions respectively on leadership at the top and corporate governance, while Professor Van der Heyden moderated a panel composed of representatives of Ernst & Young, Russel Reynolds Associates, and Spencer Stuart. 

Diversity at Board Level,

INSEAD Governance Meeting, Medef, Paris, 15 June 2011

This third Governance Meeting, hosted by the MEDEF and INSEAD, provided an opportunity for exchange on the practical issues around leveraging diversity in the boardroom.

Participants included various established board members and high-profile academics with established reputations in the leadership and governance fields, INSEAD Faculty Herminia Ibarra, Jean-François Manzoni and Ludo Van der Heyden.

The Corporate Gender Gap Report

INSEAD and World Economic Forum, 2010

The global report, co-written by Saadia Zahidi, WEF and Herminia Ibarra, INSEAD, surveyed the heads of human resources at 600 companies in 20 countries, and found that leading companies are failing to capitalise on the talents of women in the workforce. The Corporate Gender Gap Report is the first study to cover the world’s largest employers and benchmark them against gender equality policies.

Associated INSEAD Websites

To learn about INSEAD's other initiatives for women, visit women@insead