If you're looking to invest in companies with diversity in the boardroom, there's no need to click around websites looking at bios, names, and photographs in search of people who seem to bring different expertise than your average Tom, Dick, or Harry. That would be time-consuming and a dubious way to find the good mix of business expertise, gender, and ethnicity that has been linked to better governance and higher profitability. (Although reading leaders' biographies is a good idea.)

If you're particularly interested in gender diversity, a new stock index series introduced by the folks at Pax World and KLD provides a shortcut to finding promising investment candidates. The objective of The Gender Investment Index series is "demonstrating that gender equality is an important indicator of financial health, and that companies that empower women and encourage gender diversity outperform others over the long term." 

Below are some of the top holdings in the North America Women Investment Index (NAWI), which includes 216 companies. As you can see, while these companies may all look good from a gender-equality standpoint, investors in our Motley Fool CAPS community have a mixed bag of opinions about their stocks:

Company

CAPS Rating (5 max)

Bank of Montreal (NYSE:BMO)

***

General Mills (NYSE:GIS)

****

Bank of Nova Scotia (NYSE:BNS)

*****

New York Times Co. (NYSE:NYT)

*

AT&T (NYSE:T)

****

Estee Lauder (NYSE:EL)

**

Quest Diagnostics (NYSE:DGX)

*****

Selection criteria for the index included representation of women on the board of directors and in management, programs and policies that support women (such as mentoring, maternity leave, and flexible schedules), and lawsuits or claims about discrimination or hostile work environments. 

I popped over to check the New York Times' board of directors and found that five of the 15 are women (including President and CEO Janet Robinson). At General Mills, I found eight of 32 top managers were women, along with five of 13 directors.

What to do
If this kind of socially responsible investing (which also bears the possibility of solid performance) appeals to you, keep an eye out for new index mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) based on these indexes.

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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article. Bank Of Nova Scotia is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Quest Diagnostics is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Try any of the Fool's investing newsletters free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.