It’s hardly news that there is a huge gender gap at the top of the private sector. Women make up just 16.6 percent of corporate board officers at Fortune 500 companies. Yet there’s increasing evidence that the companies that have not yet caught up to the 21st century suffer for their lack of diversity. A question remains: why exactly?

There’s a theory that bringing in more women is important because they have an inherently cooperative nature that can combat the testosterone of all-male teams. But there’s not much evidence to back that up. A new study shows that having more women on corporate boards is indeed important for performance – but because they make the boards more aggressive, not less so. In her new report “When All Are Aboard: Does the Gender of Directors Matter?” researcher Miriam Schwartz-Ziv takes a look at detailed minutes from corporate board meetings of Israeli companies in which the government holds a substantial equity interest. By looking not just at diversity of composition, but pairing that with analysis of a board’s actions in detail, Schwartz-Ziv is able to determine how gender impacts those actions.

She finds that boards that had at least three directors of each gender in attendance, and in particular three women, had a significantly larger ROE and net profit margin. That mirrors findings by a recent Credit Suisse study that found companies with gender-diverse boards outperformed male-only ones by 26 percent over a period of six years.

Perhaps more interesting is that Schwartz-Ziv finds that these gender-diverse boards are also more likely to take aggressive action. She finds they “were approximately twice as likely both to request further information and to take an initiative, compared to the boards that did not have such critical masses.”  She also observed that “boards that included a critical mass of women directors were more likely to experience CEO turnover when a firm’s performance was weak.”

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