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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Goldman Sachs announced Thursday that it won't help take European and North American companies public unless they have at least one "diverse" board director, effective July 1.

The big picture: In general, this is a positive development. Board diversity has been shown to improve company performance, per numerous academic studies, and far too many issuers continue to rely on bogus "pipeline" or meritocracy excuses for their boardroom homogeny.

  • A bank spokesperson confirms to Axios that "diverse" means anyone who isn't a straight, white male.
  • And a quick grammatical nit: "Diverse" shouldn't be used to describe an individual. A group can be diverse, but one person cannot.

What they're saying: Goldman CEO David Solomon said on TV yesterday that around 60 companies in the past two years have gone public with all-white, all-male boards. He didn't address the sexual orientation piece in there, and I'm unsure as to how Goldman plans to handle it.

  • If Goldman can help make a difference in the right direction, even a small one, then good on them.

Yes, but: Don't pat Goldman too hard on the back.

  • All California-based public companies already are required by state law to have at least one woman director by year-end.
  • Goldman did not reach out to other major investment banks ahead of this announcement, trying to get their buy-in. Doing so would have significantly furthered its stated objective, and felt like less of a PR push.

The state of play: This new policy will apply to both IPOs and direct listings in which Goldman is a participant (i.e., Goldman needn't be lead left manager). It's unclear if it also will apply to Goldman's private capital fundraising practice, or how the firm will handle Asia, Africa, and South American issuers.

  • I did a quick review of on-file IPO issuers with Goldman on their books, and didn't find one that would run afoul of the diversity mandate. This includes Jamf Software, which Bloomberg reports just filed confidentially with Goldman as lead.

The bottom line is that Goldman has done something virtuous, and also that it could have done something even better. Perhaps by not building a Wall Street coalition, it will cause rivals like Morgan Stanley and J.P. Morgan to raise the ante. If so, everyone wins.

Go deeper: 63% of directors say investors pay too much attention to corporate board gender diversity

Go deeper

8 hours ago - Health

Food banks feel the strain without holiday volunteers

People wait in line at Food Bank Community Kitchen on Nov. 25 in New York City. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Food Bank For New York City

America's food banks are sounding the alarm during this unprecedented holiday season.

The big picture: Soup kitchens and charities, usually brimming with holiday volunteers, are getting far less help.

10 hours ago - Health

AstraZeneca CEO: "We need to do an additional study" on COVID vaccine

Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said on Thursday the company is likely to start a new global trial to measure how effective its coronavirus vaccine is, Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: Following Phase 3 trials, Oxford and AstraZeneca said their vaccine was 90% effective in people who got a half dose followed by a full dose, and 62% effective in people who got two full doses.

Updated 12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases rose 10% in the week before Thanksgiving.
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions.
  3. World: Expert says COVID vaccine likely won't be available in Africa until Q2 of 2021 — Europeans extend lockdowns.
  4. Economy: The winners and losers of the COVID holiday season.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.