State Street Broadens Push for More Women on Corporate Boards

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By Andrea Vittorio

State Street Corp.’s investment management arm is broadening its effort to boost women’s representation in boardrooms to include more than 1,200 publicly traded companies in Canada and Japan.

The firm behind the Fearless Girl statue on Wall Street says it will vote against the re-election of directors charged with nominations at Canadian and Japanese boards that are all-male if they don’t show progress toward greater gender diversity.

Women hold just under 18 percent of board seats in Canada and only about 4 percent of board seats in Japan, according to an analysis by consulting firm Deloitte.

State Street said in recent guidance to companies that having more women on boards has been linked to better financial performance. Companies often cite a lack of suitable female director candidates as a primary obstacle to making boardrooms more gender diverse. But the $2.67 trillion asset manager’s guidance says the biggest barriers are practices for nominating directors and biases against women in the workplace.

Beyond Wall Street

State Street started its gender diversity campaign earlier this year by sending letters to 600 companies it owns in the U.S., the U.K., and Australia. It ultimately voted against directors at 400 of them.

Forty-two companies have since committed to increasing their directors’ diversity and seven have already added women to their boards, according to State Street.

“The Fearless Girl has gotten the attention not only of companies on Wall Street but also the rest of the world,” said Rakhi Kumar, head of asset stewardship and environmental, social, and governance investments at State Street Global Advisors. The statue, installed in March for International Women’s Day, shows a young girl staring down Wall Street’s charging bull.

Kumar said other investors, including BlackRock Inc., have also joined its call to action. “So gender diversity really is becoming a prominent issue for investors and that message is being passed on to company boards,” she told Bloomberg Law.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Vittorio in Washington at avittorio@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Yin Wilczek at ywilczek@bna.com

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