February 17, 2022

Board Diversity: What About People with Disabilities?

Much of the discussion on board diversity issues has focused on race, gender and sexual preference, but this recent “Race to the Bottom” blog says more attention needs to be paid to increasing the representation of people with disabilities on corporate boards. The blog recounts the unsuccessful efforts to persuade Nasdaq to include individuals with disabilities in the Diversity Matrix required by its new diversity rule. The blog says that this has left those individuals at a disadvantage when it comes to increasing their representation on corporate boards, but that their efforts appear to be receiving a more sympathetic reception at the SEC:

Even though Nasdaq did not include people with disabilities in its list of individuals that are considered to be diverse under its new diversity rule requirements, other groups are continuing to push forward and advocate on this front, and it appears that the SEC has heard their call. The SEC is considering its own board diversity rules and Commissioner Lee noted that “there’s merit to counting individuals with disabilities as diverse members of the boards, as women and ethnic minorities often are.” Commissioner Lee further stated that while it may be difficult to analyze this issue, it “does seem to [Commissioner Lee] potentially that disability is a group that makes a lot of sense to include” in SEC’s board diversity requirements. (Lydia Beyoud and Andrew Ramonas, Bloomberg Law).

The blog notes that the SEC has not released its proposed board diversity rules and that it remains to be seen whether persons with disabilities will be included in those rules.  However, as I blogged a few months ago, in setting board diversity targets in its own voting policies, BlackRock specifically included individuals with disabilities in the category of “underrepresented groups.”

John Jenkins