The Securities and Exchange Commission could do more to collect diversity data from the companies it regulates, former SEC chairs said Wednesday.
"I do think the chair of the agency and the commissioners could really use the bully pulpit and really push the firms to provide (diversity) information and to do the (diversity) assessment," former SEC Chairwoman Mary L. Schapiro said at an event focused on the SEC's Office of Minority and Women Inclusion, also known as OMWI. The SEC established OMWI in 2011, as mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010.
In 2018 and 2020, the SEC asked its regulated entities, including asset management firms, to voluntarily disclose their diversity policies and practices. However, the diversity self-assessment only garnered a response rate of 9% in 2020, up from 5% in 2018. Results from the 2022 assessment have yet to be released.
Ms. Schapiro noted that many companies are now producing their own diversity and inclusion reports in response to shareholder proposals, and "it might be possible to leverage those in some way to get another view of what's happening in the financial services industry."
Former SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White agreed, adding that "maybe there's a fatigue issue," so it would be helpful if the SEC could utilize the diversity data already out there.
"Is there some way that you can essentially piggyback, perhaps, on some other disclosures that are being made? I would explore whether you could do that," she said.
Ms. White also suggested meeting with the heads of different registrants to encourage their participation, as well as identifying which registrants have participated and have them help with outreach.
The SEC could also work with other federal agencies such as the Department of Labor to request diversity data, said former SEC Chairman Jay Clayton. Presenting a joint request to companies "makes it harder to say no," Mr. Clayton said, and would also make it easier for companies to fill out one form for both agencies.
In June, the House passed a bill — the Financial Services Racial Equity, Inclusion and Economic Justice Act — that would have required financial firms with more than 100 employees to disclose diversity data. However, the bill never made it out of the Senate last session.