“2020 Women on Boards” Applauds NY State Pension Fund and BlackRock’s Pressure for More Women Directors
National Nonprofit Campaign 2020WOB Pursuing Awareness Strategy to Galvanize Support
Los Angeles, CA — March 27, 2018 – The national public awareness campaign 2020 Women on Boards (2020WOB) applauds two separate, timely actions by the New York State Common Retirement Fund and asset management firm BlackRock during the current 2018 proxy season. Both institutional investment organizations stated they will oppose re-election of corporate directors currently on U.S. corporate boards that do not currently have women on their boards. The NY State pension fund just announced it would vote against all directors of a company that has no women directors. And BlackRock in February said it would vote against the nominating committee chair on boards without at least two women directors.
“These two giant investors are taking the most concrete and targeted steps yet to turn the tide,” said Betsy Berkhemer-Credaire, CEO of Los Angeles-based 2020WOB. “For many years now, research studies have shown that companies with women on their boards perform better than those with all-male boards, by many measures, including profitability. At the current national average of 16% seats held by women on public company boards, we are a long way from parity. But we are confident these historic announcements by such powerhouse investors will cause other shareholders and the public to take notice. People generally are quite surprised to learn how few corporate board seats are held by women. Nearly one-fourth of all public companies still have NO women directors on their boards.”
The 2020WOB strategy is to recognize and celebrate those public companies that have women directors, and try to help those who don’t. Accordingly this month, 2020WOB salutes 929 public companies of the Russell 3000 as “W” companies, so-named for “Winning” companies, that have at least 20% board seats held by women. This is the first year the 2020WOB research included all Russell 3000 companies. Since 2010, the research had tracked only Fortune 1000 companies. Among those, 174 were applauded for multiple years at the highest “W” level, as rated on the website www.2020WOB.com.
2020WOB is a nonprofit educational campaign (not a membership organization) that informs the public and collaborates with corporations to achieve at least 20% women directors on all boards by the year 2020—the milestone 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote.
“Being recognized for having at least 20% on boards enhances favorable image among shareholders, institutional investors, regulators, and customers,” Ms. Berkhemer-Credaire added. “With success among the largest companies in the Fortune 1000, the momentum is building. But we have a long way to go to achieve 20% among all public companies. Thankfully, these huge institutional investors are helping to lead the way.”
- On March 21, the New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced that the NY Pension Fund would vote its proxies against re-election of all board members on corporate boards that have no women directors. Major research studies have shown that companies with women on boards are more profitable and more productive.
- In February, BlackRock, with more than $6 Trillion in assets under management, announced it will vote against chairs of nominating/governance committees at boards with fewer than two women directors. This is first-ever recognition that having at least two women directors on boards serves shareholder interests.
- Even though research shows that having women directors on boards is a critical factor for improved corporate performance and profitability, nearly one-fourth of all public companies in the U.S. still have NO women on their boards of directors.
- Directors earn significant compensation of cash and stock for the advice and counsel they provide to the CEO and for attending quarterly board and committee meetings. Compensation can range from $50,000 to $250,000. This is a primary reason why corporate directors do not want to give up their seats until required. Some companies ask board members to retire at age 75, but others have no age limits.
- As of Dec. 31, 2017, nearly two-thirds (63%) of the Russell 3000 companies have fewer than 20% women directors. Adding just one woman to those boards would be an immediate uptick of 2,000 experienced women directors across the country. The national average of women directors on public companies is 16.2%. In California, the average is 15.5%, and for each of Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego Counties, the number is lowest in the state at 12%.
- The pipeline of potential women candidates is overflowing with qualified and experienced executive women who have been in executive management for 30 years or more. The old excuse that “We just can’t find qualified women” is simply not true.
- Boards are allowed to add or reduce the number of directors any time they choose. One solution to bringing more women onto corporate boards within a year would be to simply add a seat specifically for a woman director.
- California in 2013 was first state in the nation to pass a Legislative Resolution urging all public companies in the state to have at least one woman board member, with goal of at least three women by end of 2016. Five other states passed similar resolutions. While establishing “quotas” is not a popular concept in the U.S., California is considering other legislative efforts to proactively move the needle.
What does 2020 Women on Boards do?
Nationwide public awareness campaign–not a membership organization—2020WOB is fueled by volunteer campaign committees in more than 20 cities that have staged annual events called “The National Conversation on Board Diversity” every November since 2012. In 2017, more than 3,500 women and men attended, and many more participated on social media. New mid-year workshops during summers will educate future women candidates in major cities. On Thursday, November 15, 2018, up to 30 cities will participate, with expected attendance of 5,000.
Founded in 2010 in Boston, 2020 Women on Boards has relocated its national headquarters to Los Angeles.
Annual tracking research citing women directors at public companies, utilizing the Russell 3000, Fortune 1000, and 2020WOB’s proprietary Gender Diversity Index, with status of more than 3,000 public companies shown on website: www.2020WOB.com.
Positive celebration of corporations and CEOs annually who add women to their boards, and monthly “Challenge” letters, offering help to companies with no women on their boards. Two-thirds of some 80 companies that received Challenge letters have added women directors.
Source of valuable and current information for shareholders, government regulators, institutional investors, business leaders, legislators, and university business schools. The Russell 3000 database is provided by Equilar, San Jose CA, and verified by 2020WOB staff.
Public Policy engagement—to track and encourage legislative efforts nationwide. Six state legislatures have passed Resolutions urging all public companies to have at least one woman director on boards, and suggesting at least three within three years. These actions have not caused the needle to move, but at least state governments are aware.
For interview requests for Betsy Berkhemer-Credaire, CEO of 2020WOB and author of The Board Game: How Smart Women Become Corporate Directors, copies of her book, or more information please contact:
Direct Desk: (323) 876-5006
Cell: (323) 376-6787
Margot at BlackInkPR dot com