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Support bill to enhance gender, racial diversity in Illinois-based companies

(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Corporate board diversity makes good business sense and, more importantly, is the right thing to expect of Illinois-based public companies.

House Bill 3394, sponsored by Rep. Chris Welch and Sen. Christopher Belt, will require a modicum of racial and gender diversity for corporate boards of publicly traded companies in Illinois. It’s part of a global trend and what institutional investors have been asking for from company boards.

Before I was Cook County assessor, I was a mutual fund portfolio manager focusing on small companies around the world. For 15 years, my former colleagues and I saw an unmistakable trend of countries adopting diversity mandates for corporate boards. These laws are already in place in countries representing the majority of market capitalization in Europe, and are beginning to take hold in Asia.

As our global peers make progress in building diverse boards, the U.S. is falling behind.

According to Morningstar, more than 20 percent of the largest 3,000 public companies in the United States have no women on their boards. The average female representation on boards below the top 500 companies is below 20 percent.

Racial and ethnic diversity at the board level has barely budged since 2010, especially outside the largest group of companies. Even countries with histories of structural racism and exclusion, such as India and South Africa, have corporate board diversity mandates.

The bill’s sponsors and supporters have pointed to many studies demonstrating the economic, social, and organizational value of board diversity. Institutional investors have read these studies and asked companies to make these changes for years.

Boards can be impervious to change, but diversity is a strength. Because corporate boards are highly insulated even from shareholder voting, legal mandates are needed to move them in this direction.

Passage of HB 3394 is the right thing to do for Illinois.

Fritz Kaegi, Cook County assessor

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2020 election is the best way for Democrats to hold President Trump accountable

I watched A.G. Barr testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee and am frustrated.

There is a huge difference between how the Republicans and Democrats question, as well as the form of Barr’s responses.

Sadly, the Democrats’ questions and Barr’s hair-splitting responses are not getting us anywhere.

I fear that Americans do not have the patience and willingness to wade through this nuanced interaction; nor will they read a 400-page report that raises numerous important points.

The Republicans, on the other hand, seem to be diverting the issue to, among other things, FISA procedures and the reason for Mueller’s appointment. They are applauding the Mueller report and underscoring his credibility, claiming the matter has been concluded.

Frankly, future testimony by Mueller will do little to change the narrative that President Donald Trump and his sycophants pre-emptively framed and made more persuasive by Barr’s initial letter and news conference. Holding Trump accountable and providing a check against his lying and illegal behavior comes down to finding a rhetorical strategy that will remove the president from office.

As a communication scholar, that strategy remains talking about the 2020 election and not calling for impeachment hearings.

Congressional oversight and investigations are important but must not blur the kinds of issues that might persuade Americans to vote for the Democratic nominee.

Richard Cherwitz, Ph.D.

Ernest S. Sharpe Centennial Professor, Moody College of Communication

Founding Director, Intellectual Entrepreneurship Consortium