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A rivalry‐based theory of gender diversity

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We offer a rivalry-based perspective of gender diversity as a form of competitive action. We theorize that a firm adjusts its senior-level female representation when they identify business opportunities that may be seized by demonstrating alignment to gender parity expectations. Examining US corporate law firms and potential buyers of their services, we theorize and find that when the buyers of rivals of the focal firm increase their gender diversity, the focal firm responds by increasing its female partner representation. Reinforcing the strategic approach to managing gender diversity, we also show that a focal firm reduces its gender-related response to rivals’ buyers as the opportunity to attract those buyers decreases, and when the focal firm can use racial diversity as a credible substitute for gender diversity.



buyer-supplier relationships, gender diversity, professional service firms, rivalry, strategic human capital

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Strategic Management Journal

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