When the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission gave the green light to Nasdaq for its new board diversity reporting initiative, it rightfully included women, racial and ethnic minorities, and LGBTQ+ individuals. But people with disabilities were left out.
The argument from Corporate America against including disability in corporate diversity metrics often rests on the lack of data. Companies and regulators routinely say there’s not enough data to support the case that people with disabilities can improve financial performance and contribute to good governance. But they can—and do.
An Accenture report, Getting to Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage, found that companies that champion disability initiatives performed better than their peers. On average, over a four-year period, these companies reported 28 percent higher revenue, two times the net income, and 30 percent higher economic profit margin. Total shareholder returns were higher, too. Plus, a more diverse labor force that better reflects the makeup of today’s society appeals to younger generations of workers.
70 top CEOs have signed the CEO Letter on Disability Inclusion. Many civil rights organizations have also voiced their support, including The Leadership Conference on Human Rights, National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, National Veteran-Owned Business Association, US Black Chamber, United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, US Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce, Women Impacting Public Policy, and Out & Equal.
People with disabilities bring diverse skills and unique perspectives to all levels of a company, including corporate boards. Nasdaq would have done well to take cues from the Toronto Stock Exchange, where listed companies must disclose the number and percentage of board seats and senior management positions occupied by women, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities.