Understanding the relationship between leadership and diversity in CSR:
Erica Hilton (Ph.D Candidate); Julia Gessner (Ph.D Candidate)
Dr. S. Shyam Sundar
This paper was based on a project as part of the "COMM 506: Research Methods in Communications" course.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) performance ratings now include diversity as a measure of success. Research has found that there is a correlation between diversity characteristics of boards of directors and CSR performance. A content analysis was conducted to determine if this correlation exists between the proportion of nonwhite and female executive leadership in STEM companies, a field known for its lack of diversity in workforce and education, and CSR reporting of these companies.
For companies in the STEM fields, what is the relationship between diversity characteristics of leaders and the diversity characteristics in their corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting?
A content analysis was conducted of CSR reports (n=104) of Fortune 500 companies and executive (non-board) leadership pages of company websites of the telecommunications, technology, engineering & construction, aerospace & defense, chemical, energy, and health care sectors. The reports were reviewed for the frequency of mentions of terms related to race/ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic class. Leadership webpages of company websites were reviewed for the number of white/nonwhite leaders and for the number male/female of leaders. Companies without reports or without leadership webpages were excluded because of the inability to collect a complete data set for those companies.
Findings suggested that a higher proportion of females in executive leadership positions at a company predicted an increased number of mentions of females in corporate social responsibility reports, and a higher proportion of nonwhite individuals in executive leadership positions at a company predicted an increased number of mentions of nonwhite terms in corporate social responsibility reports(see Table 1, Relationship between female leaders and females in CSR reports and nonwhite leaders and nonwhite mentions in CSR reports). Other findings indicated that a higher proportion of females in leadership positions also positively predicted the number of unspecified diversity terms, and an increased proportion of nonwhite leaders predicted an increased frequency of mentions of socioeconomic terms and unspecified diversity terms in corporate social responsibility reports (see Table 2, Gender and Race impact on Socioeconomic and Unspecified).
The proportion of diverse executive leaders at a STEM company may predict the frequency of mentions related to gender, socioeconomic class, and race/ethnicity in CSR reports. CSR reports from companies with a higher proportion of female leaders had a higher number of female and unspecified diverse terms. Companies with a higher proportion of nonwhite leaders had more mentions of terms related to socioeconomic class, nonwhite terms, and unspecified diversity characteristics. Therefore, this increase of mentions may lead to a higher CSR performance ranking. These results are consistent with past research on the Upper Echelon theoretical framework when applied to boards of directors. Future research should be completed to understand the role of executive leaders in impacting other diversity initiatives.
For more details regarding the study contact
Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at (814) 865-2173