Stewardship Activity Report Q1 2017
Fearless Girl: Using Our Voice and Vote to Promote Gender Diversity
In honor of International Women’s Day, State Street Global Advisors (SSGA) celebrated the power of women in leadership, and the potential of the next generation of women leaders, by installing a bronze statue of a confident young “Fearless Girl” in the heart of New York City’s financial district.
There has been an overwhelming reaction to the girl since her arrival, with thousands of people taking to social media to express their support. We are encouraged by the positive response, as our goal was to raise awareness and drive a conversation around the need to improve gender diversity in corporate leadership roles.
This initiatve demonstrates SSGA’s deep commitment to improve board quality and was backed by our lastest guidance to directors on improving diversity on company boards. As one of the largest investment managers in the world and a significant shareholder we believe that corporate board diversity enhances board quality and effectiveness as it brings together directors with different skills, backgrounds and expertise. Certain research shows that companies with greater levels of gender diversity have had stronger financial performance as well as fewer governance-related issues such as bribery, corruption, shareholder conflicts and incidents of fraud.
As part of our review of the gender diversity of boards, SSGA analyzed the level of diversity in three key markets — Australia, the UK and the US. Although there has been some progress made on the inclusion of women on corporate boards, our research shows that one out of every four Russell 3000 companies still do not have any female representation on their boards. Further, nearly 60% of Russell 3000 and 30% of FTSE 350 and ASX 300 companies have fewer than 15% of their boards composed of women directors.
Therefore, we strengthend our 2017 voting guidelines to promote greater diversity on boards. We recognize that there are many ways to achieve board diversity and we support all forms of diversity, but as a starting point, we believe boards should have at least some independent female directors. Further, we expect boards to set expectations for senior management to enhance gender diversity within their ranks and the broader organization.