Women Board Members Lead to Better Returns, SEC’s Aguilar Says

Corporate America should recruit more women to serve as directors and improve the disclosure of gender and ethnic diversity on their boards, Securities and Exchange Commissioner Luis A. Aguilar said today.

Investors and companies are better served by businesses that have women on the board, Aguilar said in comments to the Women’s Executive Circle of New York. Public companies with women directors produce superior returns, manage risk better, and attract and retain more talent than companies that don’t have women on their boards, Aguilar said, citing academic and industry research.

“Diversity in the boardroom is a business necessity that companies need to take seriously,” Aguilar said. “I look forward to the day when corporate boards reflect the diversity of our nation.”

Women fill 17 percent of the board seats at companies that make up the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index, up from 13 percent in 2002, Aguilar said. Women comprise 47 percent of the total U.S. workforce, Aguilar said.

Companies have improved disclosure of board diversity since a 2009 SEC rule required public companies to state whether diversity is considered when identifying director nominees, Aguilar said. The Coca-Cola Co., Wells Fargo & Company, and Citigroup Inc. provided all the required information in their latest proxy statements, but some other companies haven’t provided enough information because the rule didn’t define diversity, Aguilar said.

“Numerous investors have made it clear that they are particularly interested in board policies regarding gender, racial, and ethnic diversity,” Aguilar said. “It is important that investors receive the specificity of disclosure that they seek.”

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