March 01, 2013
Shareowners Call for Gender Diversity on Corporate Boards
by Robert Kropp
Institutional members of the Thirty Percent Coalition file shareowner resolutions with 20
companies, requesting that they support diversity by including women and minority candidates on
Gender diversity in corporate boardrooms leads to improved financial performance. "Studies all echo
the same principle," states a 2010 report by Corporate Women Directors International (CWDI). "The greater the percentage
of women on boards and in senior management, the better the company's financial performance."
In 2012, institutional investors
representing over $1.2 trillion in assets under management sent letters to S&P 500 and Russell 1000
companies that do not have women on their boards. The investors have followed up on the letters by
submitting shareowner resolutions with 20 companies this year, calling on them "to adopt charter
language supporting board diversity and institute a practice of including women and minority
candidates on their boards."
However, "Overall trends on the board diversity in US public company boardrooms are sobering,"
the Thirty Percent Coalition
observed. The Coalition, which was formed in 2011 to address the "glacial progress" on the
issue—the number of women on US corporate boards "has essentially remained stagnant over the past
five years," it states—includes a number of institutional investors committed to sustainable
corporate governance practices.
The Thirty Percent Coalition Institutional Investor Committee
is co-chaired by Janice Hester-Amey of the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) and
Timothy Smith of Walden Asset
Management. "It makes a powerful statement when investors and women's organizations raise this
issue with leading US companies lacking diversity at the Board level and call for action," they
said. "The significance of this initiative is magnified when investors follow up with shareholder
resolutions for votes at stockholder meetings. This demonstrates how seriously investors take
board diversity as part of good governance."
Trillium Asset Management, an institutional member of the
Coalition, filed board diversity proposals at four companies identified as lagging sector peers. A
resolution filed with Hartford Financial Services states, "Companies combining competitive
financial performance with high standards of corporate governance, including a gender balanced
board, are better positioned to generate long-term value for their shareholders."
pleased to be approaching successful withdrawals with all these companies," Susan Baker of Trillium
shareowner resolutions on the issue state, "In an increasingly complex global marketplace, the
ability to draw on a wide range of viewpoints, backgrounds, skills, and experience is critical to a
"Not only do women and minority directors help companies reach broader
markets, but they also bring independent thought and perspectives to the table which may not exist
in a homogeneous board," Christine DeGroot of Calvert said. "By incorporating gender and ethnic
diversity into their formal director selection criteria, companies demonstrate that they recognize
the value of corporate diversity, and assure shareholders that it will remain a priority regardless
of changes in leadership."
Management is another institutional member of the Coalition. Its Global Women's Equality Fund
invests primarily in large-cap companies that promote gender equality and women's advancement.
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