Congressman Don Beyer Introduces Gender Diversity Investment Act
Washington, May 19, 2015 | Tia Shuyler (202-225-4376)
U.S. Representative Don Beyer, a member of the Joint Economic Committee (JEC), held a press conference this morning to introduce the Gender Diversity Investment Act, pioneering legislation designed to allow federal workers to choose to invest in businesses that have women in leadership.
The Gender Diversity Investment Act would provide federal employees the freedom and flexibility to invest their retirement savings through the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) in companies that demonstrate a strong commitment to gender diversity and women’s economic empowerment.
“This legislation would provide federal workers the opportunity to invest their retirement savings in companies that have made a commitment to gender diversity at the highest levels," said Rep. Beyer. "It makes good business sense. Studies show companies that have women in leadership outperform companies that do not. Companies that value the talents, ideas, and contributions women bring to corporate leadership end up having better returns on investment than those that ignore half the talent pool."
The Gender Diversity Investment Act provides a Gender Equality-Focused Stock Index under the TSP that focuses on gender diversity, allowing Federal employees to invest in companies with proven track records of empowering women.
"This legislation does not require anything, nor does it cost anything. It simply lets workers decide how they want to invest," Beyer added. "As a small business owner, I am concerned about the lack of women on leadership teams at American companies despite clear evidence that this leaves us at an economic disadvantage."
Studies by Credit Suisse, McKinsey and Pepperdine all show the bottom line benefits of women in leadership. Research tells us that companies with more women in senior management and leadership roles outperform companies that fail to utilize women leaders. It tells us gender enlightened companies also scored higher when being evaluated on organization, leadership, accountability and innovation. Investing in companies with proven histories of empowering women has emerged as a successful strategy for many investors.
"Let's allow federal workers to vote with their retirement savings. The studies are clear: companies should invest in women in leadership, if they don't, then federal workers can choose to invest in companies that do," Beyer concluded.
According to a 2015 study by Catalyst, women hold less than 20 percent of the board seats of U.S. companies on the S&P.
However, the problem is even worse locally. According to a study from the Northern Virginia based organization Women In Technology (WIT), women hold only 12.5 percent of board positions at the 78 Maryland-based public companies, 11.2 percent at the 110 Virginia-based public companies and 13.5 percent at the 15 Washington D.C.-based companies.
More than 30 percent of the 208 publicly traded companies in Washington, D.C. and Virginia have zero women on their corporate boards. WIT has since initiated the "Leadership Foundry," a training and mentoring program designed for senior-level female executives who are interested in joining a corporate board of directors.
Julie Bloecher, Chair of Women in Technology's "The Leadership Foundry" and member of Rep. Beyer’s Executive Women's Council said, “The message is clear: gender diversity is good business. Yet our region – even with its huge pool of qualified women – underperforms when it comes to gender diversity at the board level. By providing businesses with an incentive to embrace gender diversity, Representative Beyer’s bill is a positive step towards realizing our region’s economic potential."
After introducing the Gender Diversity Investment Act, Beyer convened the first meeting of his newly-formed Executive Women's Council to discuss the scarcity of women on corporate boards, nationally and in the Metropolitan Washington region; an issue the Gender Diversity Act hopes to correct.
The Executive Women’s Council is a network of women primarily in executive and Board positions with large and medium sized private and publicly traded companies which Rep. Beyer has gathered to inform his participation in crafting national economic policy. It also includes representatives of international, national and local organizations promoting women on boards: GlobeWomen, International Women’s Forum, The 30 Percent Club, and The Leadership Foundry.
This was the first of Beyer's events designed to focus on women's economic empowerment. This Fall he will host a region-wide Women's Economic Empowerment Conference focusing on jobs, wages, professional development, mentoring and contracting.