Environmental pressure and board gender diversity: Evidence from the European Union Emission Trading System

Marie Dutordoir, Frederiek Schoubben, Kristof Struyfs*, Wouter Torsin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We examine how environmental pressure influences board gender diversity. Drawing from resource dependence, strategic adaptation, and gender socialization theories, we develop and test the prediction that firms with worse environmental performance have a higher likelihood of increasing their board gender diversity following a rise in environmental pressure. Focusing on the third phase (2013–2019) of the European Union Emission Trading System (EU ETS), we exploit the unexpected increase in emission prices after the European Council's (EC) intervention in 2017 as a quasi-natural experiment bringing heightened environmental pressure to firms. Our baseline sample consists of 182 polluting firms in 20 different EU ETS-covered countries. In line with our main hypothesis, we find that board gender diversity increases with firms' industry-adjusted levels of pollution in the post-EC intervention period, with the effect being particularly pronounced for firms with a higher exposure to emission prices and lower diversity levels. Inconsistent with a window dressing explanation, highly polluting firms replace incumbent male board members with highly qualified women. Our findings, which survive several robustness tests, suggest that more stringent environmental regulation drives social and governance changes at top corporate levels.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
JournalBusiness Strategy and the Environment
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Jan 2024


  • ESG
  • EU ETS
  • Board of directors
  • Emission trading
  • Gender diversity


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