Temple professor researches how women are changing business

“When you are the youngest person in the boardroom and one of the only females, there is always a need to improve and evolve,” says Ofra Bazel-Shoham, research assistant professor in the Department of Finance at Temple University’s Fox School of Business and the academic director of the Part-Time MBA – Conshohocken.

Her paper, “The Effect of Board Gender Diversity on R&D,” which won the Best Paper Award at the 2018 Engaged Management Scholarship Conference, argues that when women are put in leadership positions, they change the way business is done.

Her own experiences served as the inspiration to research gender dynamics of executive boards. Throughout her career in the U.S. and Israel, her opinion about a particular decision often differed from that of the other executives in the room, who were mostly men. She set out to explore the why, what, when, where and how of this phenomena.

In her paper, she investigates boards’ high-risk, high-reward investment decisions and their professional behavior to support this theory and provides examples of the different outcomes of gender-diverse boards. Bazel-Shoham collected data from CEOs and board members in 44 countries and over a period of 16 years. In that sample, only 2 percent of all CEOs and 9 percent of all board members were female.

Her work found that one of the ways women are changing business is that they are more likely than their male counterparts to focus on monitoring performance, which ends up incentivizing risky but data-driven decisions. Interviews and behavioral analysis, as well as Bazel-Shoham’s personal experience, suggest that being in a minority puts more pressure on women to not make mistakes and to make decisions based on data.

Bazel-Shoham notes that having even one woman on the board influences how the rest of the board behaves, the decisions it makes and the outcomes of those decisions. She quotes the experience of a male CEO of a large educational organization to illustrate this point.

“The women directors read all the materials ahead of time, have specific questions and are more professional than the others,” he says. “They have changed the organizational culture of the board. The men, in turn, have started to prepare themselves better as well.”

As a professor at the Fox School, Bazel-Shoham inspires all students to feel empowered to be changemakers in their careers. “When students, especially women, challenge themselves and get out of their comfort zones, they can bring so much more to the table for their future employers and themselves,” she says.

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