Firms Answer CalSTRS Call for Increased Diversity on Boards
Proxy proposals gain acceptance at six companies.
WEST SACRAMENTO, CA – Firms named in six of eight shareholder proposals filed this year agreed to calls by the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) to seek greater diversity in their board directors.
The second largest public pension fund in the U.S. withdrew proposals with Digital River, Hansen Natural, Waddell and Reed, Kirby Corp., Eagle Materials and Helix Energy. These companies agreed to actively consider diversity as a criterion in their board member recruitment process.
Five of the companies changed their Nomination Committee charters to facilitate the diversity of their boards. Helix nominated its first woman director, Nancy Quinn.
CalSTRS continues to work with NutriSystem and Liberty Global, both of which took the CalSTRS proposals to a vote of their shareholders, where they received 10 percent and 18.25 percent support, respectively.
“This effort shines a light on the long-term value enhancement a company experiences when its board of directors represents a multitude of views with gender diversity being just one aspect of this,” said CalSTRS Director of Corporate Governance Anne Sheehan. “We hope this year’s progress will serve as an indicator that companies are more willing than they have been to developing more diverse boards.”
Corporate accountability has become a high-profile issue and today’s economic challenges are forcing a reconsideration of the role of boards of directors in the long-term growth of publicly held companies. The economic downturn has also highlighted the impact that board diversity plays in providing companies with a full range of talent and experience.
CalSTRS Co-Sponsors Board Diversity Conference
The Teachers’ Retirement Board has made diversity a priority in its corporate governance efforts for the second year running. This commitment has helped forge a partnership with Stanford University and other large institutional investors to sponsor a one-day conference on September 10, 2009, titled “Diversity on Corporate Boards: When Difference Makes a Difference.” The goal is to raise awareness of the issue and prompt others to actively support diversity on corporate boards.
Opening the conference is Securities and Exchange Commissioner Luis A. Aguilar. Prior to his SEC appointment in March 2008, Aguilar was a partner with the international law firm of McKenna, Long & Aldridge, LLP, specializing in securities law.
Register for the conference by selecting the “Website” link at the bottom of the conference home page.
The success of CalSTRS this proxy season is an indication that progress is being made on an issue which has seen little recent movement. The research firm Catalyst’s survey of Fortune 500 companies showed only slight increases in the number of women named to directorships—from 14.8 percent in 2007 to 15.2 percent in 2008.
The California State Teachers’ Retirement System, with a $123.8 billion portfolio, administers retirement, disability and survivor benefits for California’s 833,000 public school educators and their families from the state’s 1,400 school districts, county offices of education and community college districts.