State Street calls for women on corporate boards worldwide

Written by on January 12, 2022

January 12, 2022

By Ross Kerber

BOSTON (Reuters) – Asset manager State Street Corp will expect all portfolio companies worldwide to have at least one woman on their boards, an executive said, expanding a policy previously focused on developed markets.

In a letter to directors released on Wednesday, Cyrus Taraporevala, CEO of State Street Global Advisors, said the new policy effective this year builds on previous actions to push boardroom diversity. These include its backing for the well-known “Fearless Girl” statue in Manhattan, installed 2017 ahead of International Women’s Day.

“While boards have become more gender diverse, it is clear that this work is not yet complete,” Taraporevala wrote in the letter, sent by a company spokeswoman.

State Street said it is prepared to cast proxy votes against board leaders where companies do not meet its diversity expectations.

Data from executive search firm Spencer Stuart shows women account for 28% of directors at U.S. companies and, at the high end, 45% at French companies. But the figure drops to 16% for Indian companies and 11% for companies in Japan, showing the challenge State Street faces with its new policy.

With $3.9 trillion under management State Street is among a select group of influential index fund firms emphasizing environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) matters.

State Street’s Taraporevala also said the company expects boards in most developed countries to have women represent at least 30% of their directors by next year, and said companies should take other steps on diversity including disclosing details about directors’ racial or ethnic backgrounds.

Separately, State Street will expect companies in developed economies to offer details as outlined by the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, as other top asset managers have done.

(Reporting by Ross Kerber in Boston; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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