Skechers garnered a fair amount of press last week after announcing the appointment of their first-ever female board member: Katherine Blair, an LA-based corporate attorney with significant expertise in corporate governance matters.
Skechers, which generated $4.6 billion in revenue in 2018, has been a target for a number of organizations calling for greater gender diversity on corporate boards, including CalSTRS, 2020 Women on Boards, and Women2Boards. Gender diversity would seem like a no-brainer for a company like Skechers, which promotes its athletic and fitness brands with celebrity endorsements including Demi Lavato, Carrie Underwood, and Camila Cabello.
But the company, founded in 1992, hadn’t had a female board member until this month. The news of Blair’s appointment was met with enthusiasm by many who apparently breathed a sigh of relief that it was now OK to go back to buying Skechers shoes (assuming that lack of diversity stopped you from buying them before now).
But that response might be a tad premature, as it isn’t clear that Skechers has seen the error of their ways and plans to embrace gender diversity in the future. In fact, one could argue that the addition of Blair is really an attempt to get by with the least amount of gender diversity possible. It’s worth noting:
Blair’s appointment, which came even after the 2019 proxy was distributed to shareholders, is undoubtedly a direct response to California’s Board Gender Diversity Law, which requires publicly traded companies headquartered in the state to include at least one woman on their boards of directors by the end of 2019 (by the end of July 2021, Skechers will have to have three women serving on their board).
In addition, Skechers has no women among their top compensated executives as well as no women among their executive officers, meaning this lone board member is the only woman in a senior leadership position anywhere in the company.
And finally, consider that the board expressed strong opposition to a shareholder resolution that would require an annual report on efforts to diversify the board, claiming that such reporting will “impose unnecessary administrative burdens and costs” on the organization (really - how much would it take to say you’re not doing anything you don’t have to?).
The shareholder resolution, filed by As You Sow, would require Skechers to provide an annual report at reasonable expense on steps Skechers is taking to enhance board diversity beyond current levels. The Skechers annual meeting takes place on May 23. (Update on May 31: No surprise - the shareholder resolution was defeated).
Note: Skechers brands include the TOMS knock-off, BOBS.