Nov 18, 2019

How Wall Street is pushing for more women

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Source: ISS Analytics; Note: 2019 is year-to-date figure; Chart: Axios Visuals

Louder calls from big investors and other Wall Street heavyweights have helped push the percentage of women joining boards to a record high. For instance, proxy advisers — who wield a lot of influence in how shareholders vote on issues — say they plan to take board diversity more seriously.

Driving the news: Last week, Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) released its final voting guidelines for the 2020 proxy season. As expected, ISS will "generally" recommend that shareholders vote against certain board members at companies with all-male boards.

What they're saying: Mega-shareholder State Street told Vox earlier this year that it voted against board directors over 1,000 times "for lack of board gender diversity." (Its voting record on other gender-related issues, though, is dubious.)

Nuveen, the investment arm of pension fund TIAA, has also pushed companies to put women on boards — though not at all costs.

  • Nuveen said it did not not support an unnamed portfolio company's first woman board member during this year's proxy season.
  • Nuveen said the appointment of the woman — who was related to two other board members, including the chairman — would have "tipped the board to have less than a majority of independent directors."
"The appointment of a director with an inherent penchant to support management can limit diversity of thought in board discussions and further concentrate the authority of insiders."
Nuveen's 2019 proxy season review

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