Problems with medical products that could result in the death or injury of consumers are recalled faster when there are women on the company’s board, according to new research from the University of Notre Dame.

In the U.S., approximately 4,500 Food and Drug Administration-approved (FDA) pharmaceuticals and medical devices are recalled annually, and it appears these decisions are “greatly influenced” by the work of female executives. According to the paper, companies with female members announced high-severity recalls 28 days faster, equating to a 35 per cent reduction in recall timing when compared to companies with all-male boards.

More women, more efficiency

But there is power in numbers.

“Just one female director is insufficient to push firms to recall these serious problems more quickly,” lead author Kaitlin Wowak said in a statement.

“It takes at least two female directors to influence the timeliness of severe product recalls, and three moves things along even faster.”

The paper, titled “The Influence of Female Directors on Product Recall Decisions,” will appear in a future edition of Manufacturing & Service Operations Management. In it, researchers analyzed 4,271 medical product recalls between 2002 and 2013 across 92 FDA-regulated, publicly-traded firms.

More low-severity recalls

Not all recalls represent a major problem with products, and firms with women on their boards are far more likely to reign in products with “low-severity” errors. Researchers noted that female-inclusive firms had 120 per cent more “low-severity” recalls that could have been brushed under the rug and hidden from regulators otherwise.

“We believe our study shows that there is a difference in very real and important outcomes between firms who add women to their boards and those who don’t,” Wowak says.

“More broadly, we align with recent calls for all directors on boards to look beyond the bottom line and be more responsive to all stakeholders, especially when products may harm or kill their customers or other stakeholders.”