Women on Board and ESG Performance: Insights from the Italian Utilities Sector

  •  Elisa Menicucci    
  •  Guido Paolucci    


The purpose of this paper is to investigate the relationship between gender diversity and environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance in the Italian utilities sector. The study examines whether the presence of women on the board of directors (BoD) is related to ESG dimensions. We analyzed a sample of 482 utility companies for the period 2018-2022 and we developed an econometric model applying unbalanced panel regression data with firm fixed effects and controls per year. Within a multivariate regression model, the authors considered the ESG score provided by Refinitiv Eikon to test the research hypotheses. Findings show that the presence of women on board of directors improves ESG performance when a critical mass of female board members (at least three) is reached. A critical threshold of female directors also positively influences the scoring of environmental and social pillars. From a managerial perspective this study draws attention to BoD composition encouraging utility companies to define internal corporate governance mechanisms thoroughly. The overall findings support managers, policy makers and regulators on how to improve ESG performance through gender diversity on BoD. This paper offers an in-depth examination of the ESG practices of utility firms, and it attempts to bridge the gap in prior literature on the determinants of ESG performance in the Italian utilities sector. This study is the first that investigates the relationship between board gender diversity and ESG performance in such a context exploring how a critical mass of women on BoD affects ESG dimensions.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.