UAW-Led Summit to Work on Boardroom Diversity

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By Che Odom

March 31 — The United Auto Workers' retirement fund will be pressing the issue of boardroom diversity at a gathering in mid-May of investors, executive search firms, professional associations and companies.

The UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust said in a statement e-mailed to Bloomberg BNA March 31 that the goal of the summit is to get stakeholders to consider the adoption in the U.S. of a voluntary code of conduct for executive recruiters “to advance board diversity similar to the one adopted in the U.K. and in light of trends and developments in the U.S.”

A representative declined to give the exact date of the conference.

Companies are under pressure to increase the participation of women and other minorities on their boards. The call for diversity is coming from pension funds and other institutional investors , members of Congress and corporate directors .

Investment Portfolios

Investors increasingly are considering boardroom diversity in their portfolios. In 2012, U.S. investors controlling a combined $417 billion in assets said they considered diversity. Just two years later, that figure was $578 billion—a 40 percent increase, according to US SIF, the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, a Washington, D.C.-based group that promotes the use of environmental and social investment criteria .

Even activist investors have been criticized for not nominating women to boards .

However, how that diversity is accomplished is hotly debated, and investors will not necessarily support shareholder proposals that call on a company to act. Last month, Apple Inc. shareholders rejected a proposal that would have required the company to accelerate the recruiting of minorities to senior executive and board positions .

Some observers suggest the U.S. should follow in the footsteps of the U.K. There, a government inquiry led by Lord Mervyn Davies found a lack of women directors among U.K. boards and set voluntary goals for companies, including that the boards of FTSE 100 companies comprise 25 percent women directors by 2015 .

According to a subsequent report by Lord Davies's commission, 26.1 percent of FTSE 100 directors were women in 2015.

To contact the reporter on this story: Che Odom in Washington at codom@bna.com

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