U.S. real estate investment trusts elected a record number of women to their boards this year, exceeding men for the first time.
Fifty-two percent — or 49 of the 94 — REIT directors named in 2018 were women, according to a new study by the professional services firm Ferguson Partners. This is up from 2017, when 41 percent of newly elected REIT board directors were women.
But, it’s not quite time to celebrate. Only eight of the 192 REITs that the report looked at have female chief executives. All told, only 17.5 percent of all directors of REIT boards are women, and 16.7 percent — or 32 of the 192 REITs — don’t have any women at all.
“To be frank, the REIT industry is not the most enlightened group when it comes to diversity around the table,” said Bill Ferguson, chief executive of Ferguson Partners, told the Wall Street Journal.
Certain institutional investors, including BlackRock and State Street Global Advisors have publicly said they would vote against corporate boards that don’t have female directors. Arjuna Capital and Pax World Investments have called on companies to close the gender wage gap.
In another sign that attitudes are shifting, Equity Group Investments’ Sam Zell faced considerable backlash after making a vulgar comment about women at the REITweek investor conference earlier this month. While speaking about gender diversity at the event, Zell said he promotes women based on merit and added: “I don’t think there’s ever been a, ‘We gotta get more pussy on the block, OK?’” [WSJ] — Kathryn Brenzel