Institutional factors and board composition: The case of (missing) workers on UK boards

Rita Goyal, Danielle Talbot, Nada Kakabadse, Andrew Kakabadse

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The debate on the issue of workers’ representation on boards is not new in the UK. Even though UK government has been instrumental in facilitating workers’ representation on boards in European countries, its corporate sector, with a few exception, does not seem to be willing to share boardrooms with workers. In this article we go beyond corporations’ reported reluctance and explore the rationales behind their discomfort with the idea of workers joining them in boardrooms by interviewing 45 corporate elites. Thematically analysing the data, we find that there are three main arguments put forth by them participants. First, corporate elites claim that workers may not have the competence and the resources which are required to meet the demands of the role of board director. Second, the modalities of executing such a mandate may be challenging. Third, a legal intervention for mandating workers’ representation on boards may be futile as law may not necessarily change behaviour and the corporate sector is doing all it can to make boards more representative. We discuss the findings with reference to the path-dependence argument of institutional theory and suggest that corporate elites’ response may be shaped by path lock-in of their past experiences and may not be based on reason. Drawing from the experience of different companies in the UK and abroad we indicate that such social isomorphism can only be broken with strong self-reinforcing deinstitutionalisation processes.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusSubmitted - 2021
EventEURAM Conference 2021: Reshaping capitalism for a sustainable world - Université du Québec , Montréal, Canada
Duration: 16 Jun 202118 Jun 2021


ConferenceEURAM Conference 2021
Abbreviated titleEURAM


  • Workers-on-boards
  • Institutions
  • Path-dependence


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