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Institutional investors commit to voting for board gender diversity

By The IJ Staff | March 08 2019 01:30PM

Photo: #WOCinTechChat

A group of Canadian institutional investors, led by NEI Investments and Addenda Capital, are inviting other investors to join them in committing to vote for gender diversity on Canadian boards.

"Canadian society is richly diverse but this is not currently reflected in the boardrooms of Canadian corporations,” said Brian Minns, Vice-President, Sustainable Investing, Addenda and Co-Chair of the Toronto Responsible Investing Working Group in a statement released on March 8 – International Women's Day. There has been progress but it has been slow, he underlined. “Even if half of the Canadian director replacement nominees were women, it would still take 30 years to reach gender parity," he said.

A statement aimed at encouraging Canadian boards to enhance board gender diversity was developed by a workstream of the Toronto RI Working Group. Signatories commit to using their voting rights to withhold votes from relevant director candidates at Canadian boards that lack gender diversity. They also commit to making known to Canadian companies where absence of diversity may impact or has impacted director voting decisions, through transparent reporting of voting guidelines or direct company engagement.

Sends a clear message

"Board gender diversity just makes sense, both from a good governance and gender equality perspective," says Rosa van den Beemt, Senior ESG Analyst at NEI, and chair of the workstream responsible for developing the statement. "As investors we can use one of the most direct tools we have available to us to encourage change at company boards: voting our proxies. I think the statement sends a clear message to Canadian companies about investors’ expectations on board diversity."

In addition to NEI and Addenda, the other current signatories are Genus Capital Management and SHARE, Shareholder Association for Research and Education.

Click here to view the Voting for Board Gender Diversity Canadian Investor Statement.

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