Women’s Underrepresentation in Corporate Power in Norway and US: Beyond In-group Favoritism





Work/Life Balance, Gender, Ethnicity, Age and Diversity, Organization & Management


Despite increasing gender-equality in many areas, corporate power is still strongly male-dominated. Prevailing research often relies on the cognitive, demand-side mechanism of in-group favoritism based on single-country studies to produce generalized explanations of men’s dominance in top management and to recommend remedies, such as gender quotas on boards. However, existing research findings are mixed. We contribute to the research field by analyzing original data from 457 large companies in Norway and the US, examining associations of the gender-composition on boards and in the actual Executive Committees. The predictions of in-group favoritism are partly supported in the US, but largely not supported for Norwegian companies with gender-balanced boards due to quotas. We argue that in-group favoritism is an incomplete explanation. We call for research examining the organizational and societal processes curtailing the supply of qualified women for top-executive positions, across national and regulatory contexts and organizational levels.

Author Biographies

Sigtona Halrynjo, Institute for Social Research

Senior research fellow. E-mail: sigtona.halrynjo@samfunnsforskning.no

Mary Blair-Loy, UC San Diego



-first.com. (2014). Global Gender Balance Scorecard 2014. Available at: http://20first. com/wp-content/uploads/20-first-2014-Global-Gender-Balance-Scorecard.pdf.

Acker, J. (2006). Inequality Regimes: Gender, Class, and Race in Organizations, Gender &Society 20(4): 441–464. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243206289499.

Axelsdóttir, L. & Halrynjo, S. (2018). Gender Balance in Executive Management: Top- Managers’ Understanding of Barriers and Solutions from the Demand–Supply Perspec- tive. Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society, 25(2): 287–314. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/sp/jxy012.

Bertrand, M., Black, S., Jensen, S. &Lleras-Muney, A. (2019). Breaking the Glass Ceiling? The Effect of Board Quotas on Female Labour Market Outcomes in Norway, The Review of Economic Studies. 86(1):191–239. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/restud/rdy032.

Bilimoria, D. (2006). The relationship between women corporate directors and women cor- porate officers, Journal of Managerial Issues 18(1): 47–61.

Blair-Loy. M (2003). Competing Devotions: Career and Family among Women Executives, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Blair-Loy M. and Cech Erin A. (2017). “Demands and Devotion: Cultural Meanings of Work and Overload among Women Researchers and Professionals in Science and Technology Industries.” Sociological Forum 32(1): 5–27. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/socf.12315.

Block, D. & Gerstner, A.-M. (2016). One-Tier vs. Two-Tier Board Structure: A Compari- son Between the United States and Germany. Comparative Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, Paper 1. University of Pennsylvania Law School, USA. (http://schol- arship.law.upenn.edu/fisch_2016/1).

Bütikofer, A., Jensen. S., & Salvanes, K. G. (2018). The role of parenthood on the gender gap among top earners, European Economic Review 109: 103–123. doi: https://doi. org/10.1016/j.euroecorev.2018.05.008.

Cha, Y. (2010). Reinforcing Separate Spheres: The Effect of Spousal Overwork on Men’s and Women’s Employment in Dual-Earner Households, American Sociological Review 75(2): 303–329. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/0003122410365307.

Cook, A. & Glass, C. (2014). Women and Top Leadership Positions: Towards an Institutional Analysis, Gender, Work and Organization 21(1): 91–103. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/ gwao.12018.

Elsaid, E. & Ursel, N. (2011). CEO succession. gender and risk taking, Gender in Man- agement: An International Journal 26(7): 499–512. doi: https://doi.org/10.1108/175424 11111175478.

Gabaldon, P., de Anca, C., Mateos de Cabo, R. & Gimeno, R. (2016). Searching for Women on Boards: An Analysis from the Supply and Demand Perspective, Corporate Govern- ance: An International Review 24(3): 371–385. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/corg.12141.

Nordic journal of working life studies 23

Gorman, E. (2005). Gender Stereotypes, Same-Gender Preferences, and Organizational Vari- ation in the Hiring of Women: Evidence from Law Firms, American Sociological Review 70(4): 702–728. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/000312240507000408.

Gorman, E. & Kmec, J. (2009). Hierarchical Rank and Women’s Organizational Mobility: Glass Ceilings in Corporate Law Firms, American Journal of Sociology 114(5): 1428–1474. doi: https://doi.org/10.1086/595950.

Gupta, A. & Raman, K. (2014). Board Diversity and CEO Selection, The Journal of Financial Research 37(4): 495–518. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/jfir.12044.

Halrynjo, S. (2015). «Kjønn, topplederkarriere og familie [Gender, top management career and family life]». In M. Teigen (Ed): Virkninger av kjønnskvotering i norsk næringsliv [Influences of gender quotas in Norwegian Business life], Oslo: Gyldendal Akademisk (97–116).

Halrynjo, S. & Lyng S. T. (2009). “Preferences, Constraints or Schemas of Devotion? Explor- ing Norwegian mothers’ withdrawals from high-commitment careers”, British Journal of Sociology, 60 (2) 321–343. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-4446.2009.01233.x.

Hardoy, I., Schøne, P. & Østbakken, K. M. (2017). Children and the gender gap in Management, Labour Economics 47: 124–137. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.labeco.2017.05.009. Humbert, A.L., Kelan, E. & Brink, M. (2018). The Perils of Gender Beliefs for Men Leaders as

Change Agents for Gender Equality, European Management Review 16(4): 1143–1157.

doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/emre.12325.

Institute for Social Research, (2018). CORE – Norwegian Gender Balance Scorecard 200.

Available at: https://www.samfunnsforskning.no/core/bilder/coretopplederbarometer/

core-topplederbarometer_pdf/core-norwegian-gender-balance-scorecard2018.pdf. Jacobs, J. A. & Gerson, K. (2004). The time divide: work. family. and gender inequality, Cam-

bridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Joy, L. (2008). Advancing women leaders: The connection between women board directors

and women corporate officers, New York: Catalyst.

Kanter, R. M. (1977). Men and women of the corporation, New York: Basic Books.

Kogut, B., Colomer, J. & Belinky, M. (2014). Structural equality at the top of the corporation:

Mandated quotas for women directors, Strategic Management Journal 35(6): 891–902.

doi: https://doi.org/10.1002/smj.2123.

Matsa, D. A. & Miller, A. R. (2011). Chipping Away at the Glass Ceiling: Gender Spillovers

in Corporate Leadership, American Economic Review 101(3): 635–639. doi: https://doi.


Mensi-Klarbach, H. & Seierstad, C. (2020). Gender Quotas on Corporate Boards: Similar-

ities and Differences in Quota Scenarios. European Management Review, 17: 615–631.

doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/emre.12374.

Nielsen, S. & Huse, M. (2010). Women directors’ contribution to board decision-making and

strategic involvement: The role of equality perception, European Management Review

(1): 16–29. doi: https://doi.org/10.1057/emr.2009.27.

Rafnsdóttir, G. & Júlíusdóttir, Ó. (2018). Reproducing gender roles through virtual work:

The case of senior management, International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics

(1): 77–94. doi: https://doi.org/10.1386/macp.14.1.77_1.

Ridgeway, C. L. & Correll, S. J. (2006). Consensus and the creation of status beliefs, Social

Forces 85(1): 431–453.

Seierstad, C. (2016). Beyond the Business Case: The Need for Both Utility and Justice Ration-

ales for Increasing the Share of Women on Boards, Corporate Governance: An Interna-

tional Review 24(4): 390–405. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/corg.12117.

Seierstad, C. & Kirton, G. (2015). Having It All? Women in High Commitment Careers and Work–Life Balance in Norway, Gender, Work and Organization 22(4): 390–404. doi:


Women’s Underrepresentation in Corporate Power Sigtona Halrynjo and Mary Blair-Loy

Skaggs, S., Stainback, K. & Duncan, P. (2012). Shaking things up or business as usual? The influence of female corporate executives and board of directors on women’s managerial representation, Social Science Research 41(4): 936–948. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j. ssresearch.2012.01.006.

Smith, N. & Parrotta, P. (2018). Why so Few Women on Boards of Directors? Empirical Evidence from Danish Companies in 1998–2010, Journal of Business Ethics 147(2): 445–467. doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-015-2974-9.

Stafsudd, A. (2006). People are strange when you’re a stranger: Senior executives select similar successors, European Management Review 3(3): 177–189. doi: https://doi.org/10.1057/ palgrave.emr.1500062.

Stainback, K., Kleiner, S. & Skaggs, S. (2016). Women in Power: Undoing or Redoing the Gendered Organization?, Gender & Society 30(1): 109–135. doi: https://doi.org/ 10.1177/0891243215602906.

Stone, P. & Lovejoy, M. (2019). Opting Back In: What Really Happens When Mothers Go Back to WorkOakland, CA. University of California Press.

Tajfel, H. & Turner, J. C. (1986). The Social Identity Theory of Intergroup Behavior, in Austin, W. G. &Worchel, S. (eds.) Psychology of Intergroup Relations, Chicago: Nelson Hall Publishers.

Teigen, M. (2012). Gender quotas for Corporate Boards in Norway – Innovative Gender Equality Policy, in Fagan. C., Menéndez, M.G. and Ansón, S. G. (eds.) Women on Cor- porate Boards and in Top Management: European Trends and Policy, London: Palgrave.

Terjesen, S., Sealy, R. & Singh, V. (2009). Women Directors on Corporate Boards: A Review and Research Agenda, Corporate Governance: An International Review 17(3): 320 337. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8683.2009.00742.x.

Wang, M. & Kelan, E. (2013). The Gender quota and Female Leadership: Effects of the Norwegian Gender quota on Board Chairs and CEOs, Journal of Business Ethics 117(3): 449–466. doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-012-1546-5.

Wharton, A. S., & Blair-Loy, M. (2006). Long Work Hours and Family Life: A Cross- National Study of Employees’ Concerns, Journal of Family Issues, 27(3), 415–436.

doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/0192513X05282985.

World Economic Forum (2019). Global Gender Gap Report 2020. World Economic Forum.

Available at: https://www.weforum.org/reports/gender-gap-2020-report-100-years-pay- equality https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-gender-gap-report-2020.




How to Cite

Halrynjo, S., & Blair-Loy, M. (2021). Women’s Underrepresentation in Corporate Power in Norway and US: Beyond In-group Favoritism. Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies, 11(S7). https://doi.org/10.18291/njwls.128592