New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has announced that the New York State Common Retirement Fund plans to vote against all board directors standing for re-election at companies that have no women on their boards.
In situations where a company has just one woman on its board, the fund will vote against members of the board's governance committee standing for re-election. DiNapoli also recently announced agreements with four Fortune 500 companies to formally include gender and racial diversity in their considerations of board candidates.
“It is unconscionable that hundreds of publicly-held U.S. companies have no women directors,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “We're putting all-male boardrooms on notice: Diversify your boards to improve your performance.”
“There is ample research that board diversity benefits companies,” he added. “We will continue to urge our portfolio companies to adopt inclusive policies to diversify their boards, but we're also going to be speaking loudly with our board votes. We commend those companies that have agreed to improve their policies in an effort to diversify their boards.”
The fund currently holds shares in more than 400 public companies that have no women on their boards and more than 700 companies that have just one woman on their board.
DiNapoli and the fund have already reached agreements with Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Leucadia National, Packaging Corp. of America and PulteGroup on commitments to seek out highly qualified women and individuals from minority groups when considering directors. As a result, the fund withdrew the shareholder proposals it had filed at the companies.
Since 2013, DiNapoli and the fund have filed 29 shareholder proposals calling on portfolio companies to enhance board diversity. To date, shareholder actions have yielded 20 agreements with portfolio companies.
The New York State Common Retirement Fund is the third largest public pension fund in the United States with estimated assets of $209.1 billion as of Dec. 31, 2017.