The board of directors serves multiple corporate governance functions, including monitoring management, providing oversight on strategic issues, and linking the organization to the broader external environment. Researchers have become increasingly interested in board interlocks and how content transmitted via these linkages shapes firm outcomes, such as corporate structure and strategies. As influential mechanisms to manage environmental uncertainty and facilitate information exchange, Board interlocks are created by directors who are affiliated with more than one firm via employment or board service and allow the board to capture a diversity of strategic experiences. One critical corporate decision that may be influenced by interlocks and strategic diffusion is diversification (i.e., in which products and markets to compete). Directors draw on their own experiences with diversification strategies at other firms to help guide and manage ongoing strategic decision-making. There is broad scholarship on interlocks and the individuals who create them, with extant research reporting that some firms are more likely to imitate or learn from their interlock partners than others. Prior findings suggest that the conditions under which information is transmitted via interlock, such as an individual director’s experience with diversification strategies at other firms, may make that information more influential to the focal firm’s own strategic decision-making related to diversification. A more holistic framework captures factors related to the individual interlocking director, the board and firm overall and the context surrounding these linkages and relationships, helping to promote future research. Understanding the social context surrounding board interlocks offers opportunities to more deeply examine how these interconnections serve in pursuit of the board’s fundamental purpose of protecting shareholder investment from managerial self-interest. Overall, integrating multi-level factors will offer new insights into the influence of board interlocks on firm strategies on both sides of the partnership. Expanding knowledge of how inter-firm linkages transmit knowledge influential to board decision-making can also improve our understanding of board effectiveness and corporate governance.
Thomas Donaldson and Diana C. Robertson
Serious research into corporate ethics is nearly half a century old. Two approaches have dominated research; one is normative, the other empirical. The former, the normative approach, develops theories and norms that are prescriptive, that is, ones that are designed to guide corporate behavior. The latter, the empirical approach, investigates the character and causes of corporate behavior by examining corporate governance structures, policies, corporate relationships, and managerial behavior with the aim of explaining and predicting corporate behavior. Normative research has been led by scholars in the fields of moral philosophy, theology and legal theory. Empirical research has been led by scholars in the fields of sociology, psychology, economics, marketing, finance, and management.
While utilizing distinct methods, the two approaches are symbiotic. Ethical and legal theory are irrelevant without factual context. Similarly, empirical theories are sterile unless translated into corporate guidance. The following description of the history of research in corporate ethics demonstrates that normative research methods are indispensable tools for empirical inquiry, even as empirical methods are indispensable tools for normative inquiry.
Jeff Hearn and David Collinson
Even though gender and gender analysis are still often equated with women, men and masculinities are equally gendered. This applies throughout society, including within organizations. Following pioneering feminist scholarship on work and organizations, explicitly gendered studies on men and masculinities have increased since the 1980s. The need to include the gendered analysis of men and masculinities as part of gender studies of organizations, leadership, and management, is now widely recognized at least within gender research. Yet, this insight continues to be ignored or downplayed in mainstream work and even in some studies seen as “critical.” Indeed the vast majority of mainstream work on organizations still has either no gender analysis whatsoever or relies on a very simplistic and rather crude understanding of gender dynamics.
Research on men and masculinities has been wide ranging and has raised important new issues about gendered dynamics in organizations, including cultures and countercultures on factory shopfloors; historical transformations of men and management in reproducing patriarchies; the relations of bureaucracy, men, and masculinities; management-labor relations as interrelations of masculinities; managerial and professional identity formation; managerial homosociality; and the interplay of diverse occupational masculinities. Research has revealed how structures, cultures, and practices of men and masculinities continue to persist and to dominate in many contemporary organizations. Having said this, the concepts of gender, of men and masculinities, and of organization have all been subject to complex and contradictory processes that entail both their explicit naming and their simultaneous deconstruction and critique. This is illustrated, respectively, in the intersectional construction of gender; the pressing need to name men as men in analysis of organizational dominance, but also deconstruct the category of men as provisional; and in the multiplication of organizational forms as, for example, interorganizational relations, net-organizations, and cyberorganizations.
These contradictory historical and conceptual namings and deconstructions are especially important in the analysis of transnational organizations operating within the context of globalization, transnationalizations, production, reproduction, and trans(national) patriarchies. Within transnational organizations such as large gendered multinational enterprises, the taken-for-granted nature of transnational gendered hierarchies and cultures persists in management, maintained partly through commonalities across difference, gendered horizontal specializations, and controls. Transnational organizations are key sites for the production of a variety of developing forms of (transnational) business masculinities, some more individualistic, some marriage based, some nation based, some transcending nation. These masculinities have clear implications for gendered practices in private spheres, including the provision of domestic servicing often by Black and minority ethnic women. The growth of the knowledge economy brings further complications to these transnational patterns, through elaboration of techno-masculinities, and interactions of men, masculinities, and information and communication technologies. This is particularly relevant in the international financial sector, where constructions of men and masculinities are impacted by the gendering of capital and financial crisis, and gender regimes of financial institutions, as in men financiers’ risky behavior. Further studies are needed addressing the “gender-neutral” hegemony of organizations, leaderships, and managements, especially in transnational arenas, and organizations subject to changing technologies. Other key research issues concern analysis of neglected intersectionalities, including intersectional privileges, male/masculine/men’s bodies, and the taken-for-granted category of “men” in and around organizations.
Sarah A. Soule
Do the activities of social movements (e.g., public protest, shareholder activism, boycotts, and sabotage) impact businesses, and if so, how do they impact businesses? When confronted by activist demands, how do firms respond, and does this response vary depending on who the activists are and what their relationship is to the firm? Answering these questions is critical for businesses and activists alike, as we move into an era of heightened activism directed at firms. A growing area of research that is situated at the intersection of economic and political sociology, social movement studies, history, and organizational theory, tackles these questions, in an increasingly methodologically sophisticated and nuanced manner. As a result, a number of important articles and books have been published, and several high-profile, interdisciplinary conferences have been held. This body of research shows that social movements have both direct and indirect effects on businesses, and that these effects are amplified by media attention to activism. For example, we know that activism impacts the financial performance of firms, as well as their reputation. And, we know that the activities of social movements have consequences on firm policies and practices. In turn, businesses have developed a varied repertoire of ways to respond to activist demands. While some businesses ignore activists, others decide to retaliate against activists. Increasingly, businesses concede to the demands of activists in material ways by changing policies and practices that are criticized, while others devise symbolic ways to respond to activist demands, thereby preserving their reputation without necessarily changing their activities.