Why Aren’t Activist Investors Putting More Women in Board Posts?

Carl Icahn has nominated 42 people to fill 94 board seats at public companies ranging from EBay to Herbalife in the past five years. Not a single one was a woman. Other activist investors, including Dan Loeb and his Third Point Partners fund and Jeffrey Ubben of ValueAct Capital Management, haven’t done much better. Since the beginning of 2011, five of the biggest U.S. activist funds have sought at least 174 board positions and landed 108, yet nominated women just seven times, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The women candidates got five seats, or 5 percent of the total. At Standard & Poor’s 500 Index companies over the same period, about 26 percent of director openings, or 446 seats, were filled by women, according to executive recruiter Spencer Stuart Inc. Women now comprise 19 percent of directors at S&P 500 companies. Activists increasingly are putting loyalists in boardrooms to agitate behind closed doors for asset sales, cost cuts, buybacks and other ways to improve financial results. One topic they’re not bringing to the table is diversity, even though more boards than ever want a mix of women and men as well races and nationalities.

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