Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) is the new chair of the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services. In this role, she plans to push for more diversity in corporate leadership positions. There are reports that she may create a subcommittee dedicated to this effort.
Waters has support from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus, the latter of which has its own task force dedicated to promoting the inclusion of African Americans at all levels of the public and private sectors. The Congressional Black Caucus also has a specific initiative directed at the tech industry, and Rep. Waters has joined the caucus in visiting Silicon Valley.
Senior Democrats on the Committee are already preparing to introduce legislation on this topic. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), the likely chair of the Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Securities, and Investment, has previously introduced language that would require public companies to disclose the gender composition of their boards. The measure would also require the SEC to set up an advisory group on gender diversity. Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-NY), the likely chair of the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, plans to introduce legislation that would require public companies to disclose the gender, race, and ethnicity of their board members.
While this information is often readily available, the introduction of these bills will likely be used as an opportunity to highlight the lack of diversity in corporate leadership and to propose hearings to further bring attention to the issue. These committees will try to bring change as much through public pressure as through legislative action.
Our Federal Public Affairs Team here at Foley & Lardner has close relationships with high level officials on the relevant committees and can confirm that encouraging corporate diversity will be a high priority for this Congress. The related scrutiny will be especially high for companies with any large merger plans or anti-trust issues.