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Sex, Power, and Corporate Governance

Amelia Miazad

Vol. 54

April 2021

Page 1913

For decades, social scientists have warned us that sexual harassment training and compliance programs are ineffective. To mitigate the risk of sexual harassment, they insist that we must cure its root cause — power imbalances between men and women.

Gender-based power imbalances plague start-ups and billion-dollar companies across sectors and industries. These power imbalances start at the top, with the composition of the board and the identity of CEOs and executive management. Pay inequity and boilerplate contractual terms in employment contracts further cement these imbalances.

In response to the #MeToo movement, key stakeholders began to shift their focus from compliance to corporate culture. This influential group of stakeholders — which includes investors, employees, regulators, insurance carriers, and board advisors — started asking companies to uproot gender-based power imbalances. In response to mounting pressure, seismic corporate governance reforms are underway. Boards are becoming more gender diverse, companies are beginning to address pay inequity and abandon mandatory arbitration and non-disclosure agreements, and boards are holding CEOs to account for sexual harassment and misconduct.

While the “old boys’ club” is still thriving in corporate America, this Article is the first comprehensive account of how the power imbalances on which it depends are shifting.

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