In February, Representative Gregory W. Meeks (D-N.Y.) introduced H.R. 1018, the Improving Corporate Governance Through Diversity Act of 2019, which will require public companies to disclose the gender, race, ethnicity and veteran status of their board directors, nominees and senior executive officers as a way to track the progress of diverse representation in the corporate sphere.
The bill has received support from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Council of Institutional Investors and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as a way to increase the diverse representation of gender, race and ethnicity on the corporate boards of directors.
Having a diverse board leads to better business performance, according to PricewaterhouseCooper’s (PwC) Annual Corporate Directors Survey. Of the board directors surveyed, 94 percent claimed that having a diverse board brings unique perspectives, 84 percent indicated that such diversity “enhances board performance,” and 91 percent stated that their boards are taking measures to increase diversity.
The bill will endeavor to make sure public companies are doing their part to bring more unique voices to the table by empowering the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Office of Minority and Women Inclusion (OMWI) to publish triennial reports of best practices for complying with the new disclosure rules, as well as create an advisory council with the Federal Advisory Committee Act. OMWI will also be allowed to solicit public comments on its best practices publications.
The Chamber notes that this “model to organically boost diversity on boards” has the potential to be more effective at producing deliverables than quota-driven strategies that have previously been attempted by jurisdictions.
NAWRB has been heavily involved in addressing the issue of diversity and inclusion throughout the entire housing ecosystem. In August 2010, I wrote an article for HousingWire bringing attention to the Dodd-Frank Act—specifically provision 342—calling for the creation of OMWI in federal agencies beginning in January 2011.
This was a major step toward accountability for women’s employment and women-owned businesses in our industry. Since then, we’ve had OMWI directors speak at each and every one of our conferences to discuss current progress and strategies.
Six years later, NAWRB submitted comments in response to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and Request for Comments (RFC), published by the FHFA in October 2016, calling for the public’s input on the proposed changes to their minority and women inclusion amendments. Our comments were taken into consideration and discussed in the rule’s final version.
In 2018, we publicly supported the passing of SB 826, the Women on Corporate Boards Bill that required public companies in California to have at least one woman on their boards by the end of 2019.
We’re pleased to see policies and legislation taking a step toward actionable solutions for increasing the representation of women and minorities at all levels of employment, making sure they have a seat at the table.
Desirée Patno is the CEO and president of Women in the Housing and Real Estate Ecosystem (NAWRB) and Desirée Patno Enterprises, Inc. (DPE), as well as chairwoman of NAWRB’s Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council (NDILC). With 30 years of experience in housing, Patno is a champion for women’s economic growth and independence. In 2017, Entrepreneur.com named her the Highest-Ranking Woman and 4th Overall Top Real Estate Influencer to Follow. For more information, please visit www.nawrb.com.