Goldman Sachs won't underwrite IPOs unless one board member is diverse  

Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO David Solomon said this year the bank will begin requiring more diversity on the boards of companies it takes public, with an emphasis on improving gender parity.   

In an interview with CNBC's "Squawk Box" at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 23, Mr. Solomon said Goldman Sachs will not take companies public if at least one board member is not diverse, "with a focus on women." He said the move aims to take care of both stakeholders and shareholders. IPOs in the U.S. perform "significantly better" when a woman is on the board, according to Mr. Solomon. 

The board diversity mandate will begin July 1. The bank plans to up the ante in 2021, requiring companies to have two diverse board members. 

"We realize that this is a small step, but it's a step in a direction saying, you know what, we think this is right. We think it's the right advice," Mr. Solomon told CNBC. "We're also in a position, with our network, to help clients if they need help placing women on boards."

He said Goldman Sachs has four female directors on its 11-person board and one black lead director. "I really value the diverse perspectives I'm getting, which are helping me run the company," he said. 

The mandate illustrates a somewhat unusual commitment on behalf of Goldman Sachs to actively orchestrate more diversity at senior levels. A PwC survey conducted last year indicated most directors (67 percent) believe boards will diversify naturally over time, and a minority see board diversity as a "very important" priority. 

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