Out Leadership Convenes a Diverse Coalition to Support & Improve upon NASDAQ’s Groundbreaking LGBTQ+ Inclusive Board Diversity SEC proposal

Since our founding in 2010, Out Leadership has consistently worked to build stakeholder coalitions to advance the cause of LGBTQ+ equality. This is grounded in two core beliefs, that we are stronger together and the only way we will achieve equality in the world is through the power of business. As we begin a new year in business – one which will no doubt bring both progress and challenges to it – we have once again created a diverse coalition advocating for change. On December 31, 2020, in the closing hours of a pandemic year, Out Leadership officially submitted a letter written in support of NASDAQ’s proposal to the SEC requiring LGBTQ+ inclusive diversity on the boards of its listed companies. Joining us in co-signing this letter, which was created in partnership with global sponsor Ropes & Gray and founding Quorum sponsor KPMG, Out Leadership convened the Diverse Directors Coalition and together agreed on some amendments and additions to render NASDAQ’s endeavor even more impactful. 

Read the full letter here.

Working with Ascend Pinnacle (representing Asian American directors); the co-founders of the Black Corporate Directors Conference and the Latino Corporate Directors Association, Out Leadership has recommended that NASDAQ’s proposal includes disclosure regarding board diversity to be included in the annual meeting proxy or information statement in SEC Filings. We additionally recommended that director-by-director board diversity is reported using the Out Leadership LGBT Corporate Board Diversity Guidelines and Matrix first developed by Out Leadership in 2016 and revised and expanded in 2020.

“We were thrilled that our diverse partners in this letter supported NASDAQ’s groundbreaking commitment to broadening diversity across its portfolio of companies.  As the first organization to advocate for LGBTQ+ leaders to be included at the board level, we are particularly proud that NASDAQ’s diversity requirement will include the category of LGBTQ+ for the very first time in history”, says Todd Sears, founder and CEO of Out Leadership. “For too long LGBTQ+ leaders have been excluded by the closet and lack of recognition of companies (only 12 companies in the entire Fortune 500 are often with the excuse of ‘privacy’ used to stop sexuality and gender identity being accounted for. Out Leadership’s global Visibility Counts and other research (quoted 7 times in NASDAQ’s SEC application) clearly shows that indeed LGBTQ+ people will, and do want to self-identify at all levels of organizations–including at the board level. Our community can’t stand up and be counted, and boards can’t benefit from the diversity of thought and perspective we bring if companies force LGBTQ+ leaders to remain in the shadows.”

“The systematic and widespread impact that LGBTQ+ inclusive diversity across the boards of the 3,300 stocks listed on the NASDAQ can’t be overstated.  It’s not only game-changing for our community, but by definition will also increase opportunities for women and leaders of color. Most importantly, however, increased diversity will help companies benefit from better business outcomes that have been proved  

Of course, there has been a spluttering backlash from some dusty conservative corners–oddly in the guise of protecting business. The Wall Street Journal predictably called the proposal the ‘Woke NASDAQ’, claiming the proposal for quotas is ‘virtue signaling at the expense of someone else’.

In response, Todd Sears states, “The Journal missed the entire point – there are structural reasons why companies have not achieved greater board diversity which the NASDAQ is seeking to change. Twenty years of research has shown a correlation between greater diversity (inherent and acquired) and better business decisions.  And in business, we know that ‘what gets measured gets done’.  By creating this opportunity for companies, the NASDAQ will create a bigger marketplace for diverse talent,  making the choice much more sustainable and easier for companies. In the history of our country, there have been a number of regulations that have ultimately made business better, even though they’re regulations (and by definition an anathema to some). LGBTQ+ inclusive diversity is one of them. By creating a standard, the NASDAQ is creating an opportunity for economies of scale, which is going to create the demand in the marketplace”.

While we have you….

This February 2nd-5th, 2021, Out Leadership is holding the first-ever global summit focused on LGBTQ+ and intersectional board diversity. This exclusive, first-of-its-kind summit focuses on developing LGBTQ+ leaders to serve on corporate boards. The inaugural Quorum Summit will explore a range of topics including:

  • The role of the Private Equity and Hedge Fund industries in board diversity
  • How to become a board candidate for early-stage and mid-cap companies
  • Understanding the evolution of recent board diversity initiatives in state regulations, Fortune 500 companies, and organizations around the world. 

As part of our commitment to creating inclusion using the power of business, we have made the bold decision to offer a limited number of complimentary tickets to our Global Summits to the wider business leadership community of LGBTQ+ non-profit partners and allies. Spaces are limited and are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Please email info@outleadership.com to receive your exclusive invitation.


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