Many prominent shareholders, such as institutional investors and PE firms, are putting pressure on the companies they own to report on the diversity characteristics of their board members and to increase the number of women and other groups on their boards. And while many companies are responding to this pressure and creating roadmaps to improve their board diversity, significant barriers remain.
To find out how companies are currently approaching the issue of board diversity, Toppan Merrill commissioned Mergermarket to speak with Melissa Gleespen, Vice President and Corporate Secretary, CMS Energy.
Toppan Merrill question: What is the importance of board diversity to CMS Energy? How exactly does CMS Energy approach the issue?
Melissa Gleespen: CMS Energy makes a priority to have a diverse Board of Directors, just as we place a high value on diversity and inclusion within our entire company. Our 11-member Board of Directors includes five women (one of whom is our president and CEO, Patti Poppe), four of whom have joined the board in the last five years. We strive for a board that reflects diversity in the communities we serve, which can mean racial, gender and ethnic representation. It’s important, too, that our board includes people from different professional and personal backgrounds, whether they live in our home state of Michigan, have worked in the energy industry or bring other experiences.
Toppan Merrill question: What benefits do you think come with diversity on your board?
Melissa Gleespen: Our board’s diversity lends strength to our mission. Our company has made a commitment to our Triple Bottom Line – people, the planet and Michigan’s prosperity – that takes a fresh approach to our work to serve residents across Michigan. We couldn’t have developed that new mindset without perspectives and input from all 11 board members. Diversity on our Board of Directors also sends a message to our employees and our customers for the inclusive company we strive to be.
Toppan Merrill question: How would you evaluate boardroom diversity in the energy utility sector?
Melissa Gleespen: The energy industry is changing rapidly in many ways. As an example, The Wall Street Journal reported in late 2018 that energy utilities have more female chief executives than any other sector in the S&P 500. That change is reflected in the makeup of our Board of Directors, and we hope to be a leader as our entire industry evolves.
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