“Press for Progress” is the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, coming up on March 8. Fittingly, gender diversity in the boardroom has recently received attention from the SEC, the world’s largest asset manager and the business press.
In a February 13 speech at Stanford University, SEC Commissioner Kara Stein noted that only about 20 percent of board seats are held by women and cited extensive research demonstrating the benefits of gender diversity on boards. Stein lamented that, “Despite the documented benefit of diverse boards, many board members do not believe that board diversity enhances company performance. Further, more than half of directors believe that their boards are already sufficiently diverse.”
In its recently-updated proxy voting guidelines, BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, states that, “In addition to other elements of diversity, we would normally expect to see at least two women directors on every board.” BlackRock specifically threatens to vote against the nominating/governance committee members at any company that “has not adequately accounted for diversity in its board composition.” For more on efforts by BlackRock and other leading investors to increase gender diversity in the boardroom, see this recent article in The Wall Street Journal.
Another recent article in The Wall Street Journal addresses why “Women looking to land their first board seats have a much tougher time than men.” An article in the February 15 issue of The Economist examines the lessons to be learned from the efforts of many European countries to improve gender diversity on boards through the use of quotas.