For a company whose target market is mostly women, Urban Outfitters is failing miserably on behalf of its board’s gender diversity. Investors are not pleased. Almost half of the company's independent shareholders voted in favor of a resolution to commit to a policy of inclusion that would consider women and minority candidates for the board. The resolution was rejected.
Over the past three years, shareholders have repeatedly voiced concern regarding Urban’s all male board, submitting proposals that would address the issue. With each proposal getting shot down, shareholders are digging in, refusing to accept such blatant disregard for gender diversity in the corporate world. In response to their disgruntled investors, Urban appointed one woman to the board last year: the founder and chief executive’s wife. As Gretchen Morgensen said in a New York Times article last year, "Talk about poking your shareholders in the eye with a stick."
Trying to understand Urban’s response is perhaps even more difficult when you compare Urban to a company in the same market: Abercrombie & Fitch. A&F jumped the proverbial gun and nominated four women executives, highly qualified in retail, to their board in anticipation of their annual meeting this month.
We applaud the Urban investors and their protest vote, and hope more companies like Abercrombie & Fitch recognize the value that women bring to the boardroom table.