Nasdaq pushed to add disabled people to its board diversity proposal

Two organizations representing people with disabilities asked Nasdaq Inc on Tuesday to be more inclusive in the exchange operator’s proposal to require all of its listed companies to adopt new rules related to board diversity.

Nasdaq in December proposed new rules that will require most Nasdaq-listed companies to have, or publicly explain why they do not, at least two diverse board directors, including one who self-identifies as female and one who self-identifies as either an underrepresented minority or LGBTQ+.

People with disabilities should be included in Nasdaq’s definition of an underrepresented minority given their extreme social isolation, economic isolation and economic inequality, said Ted Kennedy Jr, chairman of the American Association of People With Disabilities (AAPD).

“I can’t think of any single pronouncement that could have more of an impact on disability inclusion in the workplace than this proposal,” he said in an interview.

Many disabled people who can work and want to work are passed over for jobs, he said.

In January, the labor force participation rate for people with disabilities was 19.6%, compared with 66.4% for people without disabilities, according to the Department of Labor here.

The AAPD, along with the Disability:IN, a non-profit group focused on economic independence and job creation for people with disabilities, wrote letters to the acting chair of the SEC, which is considering Nasdaq’s proposal, and to the head of Nasdaq making the case for inclusion.

Nasdaq said in a statement it was encouraged by all of the positive feedback on its proposal and that it was listening to all perspectives.

While inclusion among corporations has been improving, the real “holy grail” has always been the corporate board room, because companies that are leading on disability inclusion tend to have a director or CEO that has a personal interest, Kennedy said.