Trailblazers of diversity: editors and editorial board diversity

Documents my research with Isabel Metz on gender and international diversity in editorial boards


When working at the Department of Management in Melbourne, I was keen to complement my international collaborations with projects with local colleagues. One of my colleagues, Isabel Metz, now a Professor at Melbourne Business School had an interest in gender diversity. I had an interest in the workings of academic journals. So what would be more natural than combining our interests and studying gender (and international) diversity in editorial boards of academic journals?

10,000 board members and articles

We thus embarked on a large-scale secondary data collection effort incorporating over 10,000 board members and 10,000 articles of some 50 journals in Management (International Business, Strategy/General Management, Operations Management and HRM/­Orga­niza­tional Behaviour) & Marketing. We collected data at five points in time (1989, 1994, 1999, 2004 and 2009) and published no less than five articles together, including one the role of editors as trailblazers of diversity that is “hot of the press”.

  • Metz, I.; Harzing, A.W.; Zyphur, M. (2016) Of journal editors and editorial boards: Who are the trailblazers in increasing editorial board gender equality?, British Journal of Management, vol. 27, no. 4, pp. 712-726. [Also incorporated into a virtual issue on Gender in Management ResearchAvailable online... - Publisher's version

Practical implications of our research

Our research had slightly unexpected practical implications. After the first study – which listed all journals in our sample and thus “named and shamed” those with low gender diversity – had been published, we noticed that many journals that had either no or only one or two female board members started to increase their female editorial board membership.

Of course we cannot prove causality, but if it was caused by our study we are very proud to have made a small difference in this respect! It certainly had professional implications for me. After reviewing for several of the International Business journals for nearly a decade without making it to the editorial board, I suddenly received multiple editorial board invitations in the space of several months!

Gender diversity in editorial boards

Metz & Harzing (2009) showed that female academics continue to be under-represented in editorial boards in relation to their representation as first authors of articles published in those journals, the closest approximation of the pool of candidates for editorial board positions.

  • Metz, I.; Harzing, A.W. (2009) Gender diversity in editorial boards of management journals, The Academy of Management Learning & Education, 8(4): 540-557. Available online... - Publisher’s version

Metz & Harzing’s (2012) found an increase in the average proportion of female editorial board members of almost four percentage points (from 18.7% to 22.4%) between 2004 and 2009. The biggest increase came from those journals that had the lowest level of gender diversity, i.e. lower ranked journals and European-based (as opposed to North American) journals.

  • Metz, I.; Harzing, A.W. (2012) An update of gender diversity in editorial boards: A longitudinal study of management journals, Personnel Review, 41(3): 283-300. Available online... - Publisher’s version


Geographical diversity in editorial boards

Harzing & Metz (2012) found a positive relationship between a country’s conference attendance at a top US or European management conference and its representation on editorial boards, even when controlling for a country’s research output. It also showed that countries with fair to average English language skills continue to be seriously underrepresented on editorial boards. However, by 2009 countries with excellent English language skills are nearly as well represented as native English speaking countries.

  • Harzing, A.W.; Metz, I. (2012) Explaining geographic diversity of editorial boards: the role of conference participation and English language skills, European Journal of International Management, 6(6): 697-715. Available online... - Publisher’s version

Harzing & Metz (2013) found that geographical diversity of editorial boards had increased over time. However, for all journals a very large proportion of board members still come from the home country, a tendency that was strongest in the USA with more than 80% home country membership. Journals in the field of International Business had the most geographically diverse editorial boards.

Editors as trailblazers

For our final paper, we also collected data about the editors rather than only the editorial board members. Journal editors are the most influential people in the selection of editorial board members. Overall, we found that the prospects of board membership improve for women when editors are high performing, professionally young, or female.

Indeed, from our results, we can contrast the predicted average probability of female editorial board membership for a female editor who is younger and higher performing, which is 26.08%, versus a male editor who is older and lower performing, which is 16.43%.

Please note that our study included a large range of control variables, such as editorial board size, year of observation, journal rotation, disciplinary focus of each journal, and its location. Thanks to our colleague Michael Zyphur it also used sophisticated multi-level modeling. Thus we can have considerable confidence in our results.

Drop me a line

Free pre-publication versions of these papers are hyperlinked. If you’d like to have an official reprint for these papers, just drop me an email.

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