proxy

Investing responsibly? Vote your proxy.

In our work to highlight and influence the vast number of opportunities for corporate board diversity, it seems only natural to take a look at the current weight shareholders carry when it comes to Socially Responsible Investing. There are a number of historical precedents for SRI, and lately, with companies jumping on the ethically concerned bandwagon, investors can now take into consideration not only a promising financial return, but their own social consciousness. There’s no question that investors have been increasingly mindful of their social responsibility and impact when seeking out new investment opportunities. Whether it’s concern for the environment or avoiding companies that profit from tobacco, profitability is no longer the sole factor for investors. The number of investment opportunities that meet both criteria is flourishing.
 
Despite this good news, however, it seems that boardroom diversity still manages to fall to the wayside. With so many companies providing SRI opportunities with real return, one has to wonder why boardroom diversity is not just a given, but a requirement for any socially responsible company. Thus with proxy season underway, we ask investors to not only vote their proxies, but look carefully at the board slates. Say no to all male boards and write boldly onto your proxy ballot WHERE ARE THE WOMEN? when there are none on the slate. If there is only one woman on the board, vote only for that woman. As shareholders, our vote can send a message to boards that gender diversity does matter.

Investor Spring? Not just for executive pay.

In Gretchen Morgenson's article "Inciting a Revolution: The Investor Spring" (The New York Times, June 5, 2011) she tells the story of an investor who was disillusioned with shareholder returns relative to management pay packages.  The investor, a retired CEO from a major advertising agency, reasoned that if social media could be used to topple regimes in the Middle East, it could also be used to help disenfranchised investors.

The retired CEO started a website for like-minded investors who owned shares of a pharmaceutical company. The website encouraged investors to vote as a block against the company's pay practices and for all of the directors up for election. The company's annual meeting is not until June 15, but it's taking notice of this group of feisty investors.

We developed the 2020 Women on Boards website to build a groundswell of support for getting more women on public company boards.  The counter on our website indicates the number of people who support the 2020 initiative. We reached over 1,000 supporters as the campaign celebrated its 6-month anniversary on June 1st.

Numbers talk. As the number of people who support the Women on Boards campaign increases we expect that the companies will feel the heat and diversify their boards.  The most effective way for this to happen is for shareholders aligned with our mission to vote their proxies.

The 2011 proxy season is coming to a close. You can be sure that the 2020 campaign will begin to identify diversity resolutions during the 2012 proxy season. As for now, watch our list of W companies grow, and be on the lookout for the Z list coming in January.

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