The numbers don't lie: it pays to have a diverse set of executives in the C-suite and on boards.

Companies with high Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) scores saw lower earnings per share and stock price volatility, and higher returns on equity, over time than those with lower scores, according to a new analysis from Bank of America Merrill Lynch (see charts below). ESG scores measure a blend of board diversity, company policy on diversity/inclusion and women in management. 

Unfortunately, it still doesn't look like most of Corporate America has gotten the message. 

BofA points out that while board diversity has improved (the average S&P 500 board has 22% women vs. 14% in 2008), just 11% of companies have at least one-third of board seats held by woman. That trails many European countries, says BofA.

Interestingly, one of the least diverse sectors in BofA's stock coverage universe is specialty retail, an industry that mostly targets young woman. BofA's Lorraine Hutchinson, a long-time retail analyst, believes that if the C-suite was more diverse the specialty retail sector might have avoided current challenges such as over-expansion.

Victoria's Secret owner L Brands (LB) , for example, has no female executives on its management team. Neither does Express (EXPR) .  

Meanwhile, Anders Keitz -- who is always crunching the numbers from TheStreet's relationship capital management service BoardEx -- says women remain significantly underrepresented in the corporate pipeline. Keitz cites the 2017 Women in the Workplace study conducted by consulting firm McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.Org.

"From the outset, fewer women than men are hired at the entry level, despite women being 57% of recent college graduates," the study found. "At every subsequent step, the representation of women further declines, and women of color face an even more dramatic drop-off at senior levels. As a result, one in five C-suite leaders is a woman, and fewer than one in thirty is a woman of color."

In the banking and consumer finance industries, women represent 51% of the entry-level positions, a level that falls to 36% at the Senior Manager/Director level, and drops to 18% in the C-Suite, according to the Women in the Workplace study.

Source: BofA
Source: BofA

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