Women on boards — putting money where our mouths are
Thursday, June 27, 2013
Posted by: Barbara Francella
By Susan Bulkeley Butler
talking a long time about the need for women on corporate boards of directors
to add more women. Maybe it’s time we quit talking and put our money our mouths
investors are doing just that.
the New York State Comptroller's office (as trustee of the New York State
Common Retirement Fund) censured one company it invests in ― Urban Outfitters
Inc. ― for paying little more than lip service to board diversity.
Outfitters has been under pressure for some time to make changes to its
all-male board. So, what did the company do to respond to this pressure? It
nominated Margaret Hayne, the spouse of Urban Outfitters Chairman, CEO and Founder
Richard Hayne, who has been an employee of the company for more than 30 years,
to a board spot.
Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli rightly recognized the farce.
"Urban Outfitters has closed its boardroom to women and minorities, which does
not serve the company, shareholders or customers well,” DiNapoli said in a
press release. "Research indicates a significant correlation between boards
that are diverse and a higher firm value. Shareholders should see through the
nomination of Margaret Hayne, the ultimate insider, and demand that Urban
Outfitters take steps to promote a policy of board inclusiveness.”
Percent Coalition, a group I belong to, is similarly using the power of the
dollar to try and improve boardroom diversity. Earlier this year, our group
helped launch an effort that included writing letters to 168 companies urging
them to add more women to their boards.
2013 proxy season, members of the coalition filed shareholder resolutions
urging these companies to adopt charter language supporting board diversity and
institute a practice of including women and minority candidates on their
boards. As a result, constructive and cooperative discussions are underway at a
number of these companies.
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, an analyst at Calvert Investments, said. Calvert, working with the
Thirty Percent Coalition's institutional investor committee, filed many of the
real change for women, we need to do it with our words ― but also with our
actions and with our money.
several steps we can take as individuals:
- Don't invest in companies that don't have
women on their boards. At companies you already invest in, demand that they
make more room for women at the top levels of management.
- Refuse to spend money at companies that
don't support women or diversity. Why promote the profits of companies that
aren't doing what is right?
- Encourage corporate boards to tie CEO and
executive compensation to improving diversity. Nothing affects change at a
company like executive bonuses.
boards and CEOs may not always understand the need for diversity and the
advantages of having more women within their ranks, but they do understand the
importance of profits and keeping investors and keeping
comes to getting more women in the top levels of management, let's let
companies know when we're not happy ― with our words, with our actions and with
Susan Bulkeley Butler is founder and CEO
of the SBB Institute for the Development of
Women Leaders and author of the book Become the
CEO of You Inc.This article first appeared on The Huffington Post.
Views expressed in signed blogs and
user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the
opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and
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