Rep. Maloney seeks to boost women on corporate boards

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 08, 2016 5:07 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York is working on legislation to address the near-absence of women from corporate boardrooms and hopes to introduce it in the U.S. Congress next month.

If it becomes law, companies would have to disclose the gender composition of their boards of directors, as well as policies and strategies related to gender diversity on their boards, she told Reuters in an interview on Friday. The legislation would be modeled after policies in Canada and Australia, she added.

Maloney, a Democrat, said she plans to consult with women's groups, business organizations and other stakeholders on her draft at the end of January and soon after introduce it in the House of Representatives.

Currently, there is little clear data on women in the top echelon of business leadership, which makes creating changes difficult, Maloney said.

Mary Jo White, head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, called in November for more gender parity on boards, saying that 17.5 percent of the boards of Fortune 1000 companies are women, as are 19.2 percent of those of S&P 500 companies.

Last spring, a collection of large public pension funds, including the California Public Employees Retirement System, asked the SEC to create new disclosures on board nominees' gender, racial, and ethnic diversity, as well as their professional backgrounds.

Maloney, who represents a district that includes Manhattan, home to numerous corporate boards, said she has heard for years from constituents about low female board membership.

The Government Accountability Office recently released a report showing it could take more than 40 years for boards to achieve parity if equal numbers of women and men joined each year, beginning in 2015. If only women filled vacancies, it would take until 2024 to reach parity, according to the study.

"This slow turnover and the slow movement forward is concerning," said Maloney. "If I had a daughter born today she would be facing the same discrimination and challenges I faced."

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Dan Grebler)