Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology

Committee Chair(s)

Christy Glass


Christy Glass


Eric Hofmann


Alison Cook


In this study I investigate the impact different director types have on firm commitments to voluntary labor regulation. Using an author-constructed dataset of eight focal firm’s boards of directors for a nineteen-year period, I examine the impacts of gender and racial diversity, as well as the inclusion of independent interlocking board members on firm commitments to voluntary labor regulation following a legitimacy crisis in the 1990s. Framing firms’ responses within a chronological approach to institutional theory, I test how trends for these three director types varied for firms most and least committed to voluntary labor regulation, as well as for firms that underwent bankruptcy, an acquisition, or split into various firms between 1996 and 2014. Findings suggest that firms view gender and racial diversity in similar ways, but independent interlocks as a separate strategy. All firms increased the number of women and racial minorities on their boards, with least committed firms having the highest percentages of both over this entire period. Use of independent interlocks increased at a moderate rate for most committed firms, decreased over time for least committed firms, and increased significantly for firms going through additional crises (bankruptcy, an acquisition, or splitting up). This study contributes to theory and research on organizational change by extending understanding of mechanisms that drive organizational change in response to crisis by analyzing internal normative mechanisms that shaped firms’ responses. It extends research on board composition by analyzing the conditions under which board diversity and interlocked board members are sought by focal firms. Understanding how and why board diversity and independent interlock membership serve as mechanisms of internal, normative change provides insight into what internal mechanisms shape organizational policies and practices, and provide a correction to the over-focus on external, coercive mechanisms in existing scholarship.



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