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Imposing quotas for women in boardrooms tackles a symptom of discrimination, not the cause
Numerous studies show that high proportions of women directors coincide with superior corporate performance. But there is little academically accepted evidence of a causal relationship. It may be that thriving firms allow themselves the luxury of attending to social issues such as board diversity, whereas poorly performing ones batten down the hatches.
Women do seem to be particularly effective board members at companies where things are going wrong. A 2008 paper on the impact of female directors by Renée Adams and Daniel Ferreira of the University of Queensland and the London School of Economics found that bosses of American firms whose shares perform poorly are more likely to be fired if the firm has a relatively high number of women directors. On average, however, the paper concluded that firms perform worse as the proportion of women on the board increases.