Male Directors Chosen By Appearance

Male board directors are judged by facial appearance, but female ones are not.

Male Directors Chosen by Their Appearance

IN ELECTIONS FOR directors of corporate boards, women are not judged by their facial appearance, but men are. It's not their attractiveness that wins over voters, but other qualities that viewers perceive in their faces. That counterintuitive finding comes from research conducted by Philipp Geiler, an associate professor in corporate finance at EMLyon Business School in France; Luc Renneboog, a professor of corporate finance at Tilburg University in the Netherlands; and Yang Zhao, a lecturer in banking and finance at Newcastle University Business School in the U.K.

The researchers reviewed 621 corporate director elections and re-elections in U.K. firms between the years 1996 and 2007. They calculated an appearance score for candidates based on rankings from anonymous raters, who scored candidates between 1 and 5 for their beauty, perceived competence, trustworthiness, likability, and intelligence after seeing their photographs. The researchers matched these average ratings with the percentage of voters who either abstained or voted against directors in their elections and re-elections.

While beauty had no impact, the study revealed that male directors who were perceived as exhibiting competence, trustworthiness, likability, and intelligence received more votes in their favor. In fact, as a candidate's rating increased by one standard deviation, his likelihood of receiving negative votes declined by 26 percent. Thus, when shareholders vote for a male candidate, they are considering his physical appearance as well as his professional background, education, or corporate track record.

On the other hand, the perceived beauty and character traits of female candidates had no effect on the number of votes that they received. Geiler adds, "In fact, women receive very little voting dissent at all, which is likely due to top female directors still being in short supply, and companies and shareholders recognizing the benefits of gender diversity at board level."

"Beauty and Appearance in Corporate Director Elections" was published in the July 2018 issue of the Journal of International Financial Markets, Institutions and Money.