BoardroomDirect® Update on the current board issues: January 2016

January 2016
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BoardroomDirect® Update on the current board issues: January 2016

At a glance

This issue of BoardroomDirect® includes a brief article on a US GAO study that found it would take 40 years for women and men to have equal representation on public boards. Also, there is news about possible political spending disclosure rules taking a hit in court and in Congress, ISS’ latest FAQs on proxy access issues, FASB’s new guidance on financial instruments, and the Center for Audit Quality’s new principles-based framework for auditing fair value measurements.

Issue in focus

US GAO: It could take 40 years for women to catch up to men on boards 

While the number of women on public company boards has regularly increased over the last eight years, equality could still be decades away, according to a new report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO). 

In 2014, women held about 16% of board seats in the S&P 1500, an increase from 8% in 1997. However, even if equal proportions of women and men joined boards each year beginning in 2015, the GAO estimates it could take more than four decades for female representation on boards to be on par with that of men.

The GAO analyzed data from S&P 1500 company boards and conducted interviews with 19 stakeholders, including CEOs, board directors, and investors. 

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), who asked the GAO for the study in 2014, wrote a letter to SEC Chair Mary Jo White after receiving the results in which she asked the Commission to adopt proxy statement amendments that would call for disclosure of each director nominee’s gender, race, and ethnicity. Nine large public pension funds made a similar request last year. 

In her letter, Maloney points out that only 12 of the S&P 500 (2.4%) have boards comprised of at least 40 percent women.