It’s 2019, and a $47 billion company is going public with an all-male board of directors.
WeWork’s parent known formally as the We Company disclosed who comprises its board in an initial public offering prospectus early on Wednesday. Among the seven members, not a single one is female. The company was most-recently valued privately at $47 billion although it’s unclear if they’ll receive the same price tag from the public markets.
As of last month, every S&P 500 company had at least one female director on its board. It’s become a more-prominent issue in recent years as major investors, such as BlackRock and State Street, have pushed back against companies with all-male directors. Having a more-diverse board is seen as an avenue toward better shareholder returns.
In several weeks, WeWork is expected to launch a roadshow where it will meet with investors and seek to drum up support for what’s likely going to be a multi-billion-dollar stock sale. Its underwriters, including J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs, have also contributed $6 billion toward a credit facility, contingent upon the IPO.
WeWork declined to comment on the makeup of its board of directors.
WeWork does have several women in management positions. Rebekah Neumann — the co-founder and wife of Adam Newmann, the CEO— serves as chief brand and impact officer. And Jennfer Berrent is the co-president and chief legal officer.
Adam Neumann serves as chairman of the board. WeWork’s board also includes Bruce Dunlevie, a founding partner of Benchmark Capital, as well as Ronald Fisher, vice chairman of SoftBank, two of the company’s largest investors. Other members include Lewis Frankfort, Steven Langman, Mark Schwartz and John Zhao.
WeWork has a triple-class share structure and will be a controlled company, making it difficult for an outside investor to wage a proxy contest that would alter the makeup of the board.
Amid a boom in initial public offerings in 2019, women have been gaining ground in the C-Suite. In the first half of the year, 13 women CEOs have taken companies public, representing about 15 percent of the total IPOs over that period. That’s the highest proportion of any year going back to at least 2014, an analysis by CNBC found.
Historically, women were more absent from the boardrooms of companies making their debuts. A study released last month by 2020 Women on Boards found that 37 percent of the 75 largest IPOs from 2014 to 2016 debuted with all-male boards. But in the last few years, it’s become a much less common occurrence, especially among larger private companies that have waited far longer to go public.
WeWork disclosed its prospectus after being on file confidentially. The company is aiming for a debut in September, people with knowledge of the timeline said.
This article was first published on August 14th, 2019, for CNBC
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