A growing body of research suggests that having more women in the boardroom leads to better corporate social responsibility (CSR) performance. However, much of this work views the CSR-enhancing effect of women directors as largely driven by their moral orientations and rarely considers other underlying mechanisms. Moreover, less explored are the firm-specific conditions under which such CSR-promoting roles of female directors might be performed more (or less) effectively. In this paper, we seek to bridge this gap in the literature by (1) proposing an additional account for the positive influence of female independent directors on the firm’s CSR and (2) illuminating the organizational context in which female directorship is likely to translate into good CSR performance. We argue that women independent directors might take CSR issues more seriously than their male counterparts not only because of their stronger moral orientations, but also because they have reputational reasons to do so. Further, we suggest that female directors’ concerns about CSR-relevant matters are more (less) likely to gain support from other members of the organization when their company is doing more (less) business in the product markets where reputation for CSR is more (less) vital for success. Using a sample of Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 1500 index firms (2000–2009) and the data on their board composition and CSR ratings, we find strong support for our argument. We find that the number (or proportion) of women independent directors is positively associated with a firm’s CSR ratings and that the strength of this relationship depends on the level of the firm’s consumer market orientation.
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