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Andrea Vittorio Washington Reporter Fawn Johnson Washington Editor
The New York State Common Retirement Fund pledged March 21 to hold entire public company boards accountable for their lack of gender diversity.
The $209.1 billion fund, the nation’s third-largest for public pensions, holds shares in more than 400 companies with all-male boards. The fund said in a statement that it will vote against re-electing all of their directors.
More than 700 other companies with just one woman on their board will see votes against sitting members of the governance committee, the fund said.
“We’re putting all-male boardrooms on notice — diversify your boards to improve your performance,” New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a statement. He pointed to “ample research” showing that companies with more diverse boards and management teams perform better financially.
Other pension funds are also pushing for more diverse boardrooms. California’s public employee retirement fund is targeting certain directors, such as the board’s chair, at companies that don’t improve their board diversity while the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Trust is threatening to vote against or withhold votes from every member on boards that are less than 30 percent diverse in gender and race.
DiNapoli, who oversees the New York state pension fund, said “it is unconscionable” that there are so many U.S.-listed companies without women on their boards. Companies that don’t diversify their boards are putting themselves at risk of reputational damage, he said.
Four companies — Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Leucadia National Corp., Packaging Corp. of America, and PulteGroup Inc. — committed to seek out women and minorities as director candidates after facing shareholder proposals from DiNapoli. He has withdrawn those proposals as a result.
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