Carl Icahn has nominated 42 people to fill 94 board seats at public companies ranging from EBay Inc. to Herbalife Ltd. 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.
Douglas Chia, executive director of the Conference Board’s Governance Center, a research arm of the business group, said companies targeted by activists would benefit from having more women directors.
“If you believe that diversity on boards is critical for long-term sustainable growth, then you have to wonder whether activists care about this — or simply want to get the company’s stock price up quickly,” Chia said. “It’s a serious issue at a time when most executives and directors believe you need boardroom diversity to avoid getting stuck in blind spots.”