Buffett and Fink back 30% Club for women on boards as it launches in the US

Top investors add names to senior corporate players as UK gender initiative crosses the Atlantic.

Prominent US investment chiefs including Warren Buffett and Larry Fink have signed up to a roll call of some of the US’ top corporate CEOs to back The 30% Club – a group pushing for the voluntary promotion of more women on to company boards – as it launches in the US. Peter Grauer, Chairman of Bloomberg, will serve as the founding US Chair of The 30% Club’s US arm. The high-level lobby group said it would press US companies to hire more women at all levels, with a near-term focus on female representation in senior leadership. The 30% Club launched in the UK in 2010 with a goal of 30% women on FTSE-100 boards by the end of 2015. It opened a Hong Kong office eight months ago as part of profile raising in the region, and says it will branch out to other regions. A UK government-backed report in 2011 proposed that companies should have 25% of women directors by 2015 and that it could legislate if they didn’t act voluntarily. Currently, boards in the FTSE 100 index have an average of 20.8% of women, up from 12.5% in 2010. There are 92 members of the 30% Club in the UK. Its push for voluntary corporate action has contrasted with attempts by the European Union to introduce quotas for women on company boards. However, the club has exerted shareholder pressure where necessary. Its UK asset manager members have warned that they could abstain on director votes or even try and oust Chairmen of recalcitrant companies under recently granted powers of annual votes on director re-election. The US 30% Club launches with 24 Founding Supporters, but has yet to outline its strategy for pushing companies to increase their female headcount, particularly at senior level. A report earlier this year said women occupied just 16.9% of board seats at Fortune 500 companies. The Thirty Percent Coalition, an institutional investor group which campaigns for gender diverse company boards in the US, has been filing shareholder resolutions at companies for the last two years. In 2013 it pitched resolutions at 20 companies across all sectors with no female directors. That group, which is not part of the new US 30% Club, is co-chaired by Janice Hester-Amey, Portfolio Manager of the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS), and Timothy Smith, Senior Vice President at Walden Asset Management. Launching the US 30% Club, Grauer said: “This is a business issue as much as it is a diversity issue. Businesses do better when they avoid ‘group think’, and better gender balance is a key factor in business success. That said, we have a lot more work to do in the U.S. to improve female representation, and senior business leaders have to drive that change.“The U.S. Founding Supporters include:

Dominic Barton, Global Managing Director, McKinsey & Co.
Wayne Berson, CEO, BDO USA & Global Chairman, BDO
Warren Buffett, Chairman & CEO, Berkshire Hathaway
Dominic Casserley, CEO, Willis Group Holdings
William S. Demchak, Chairman, President & CEO, The PNC Financial Services Group
Irene Dorner, President & CEO, HSBC USA
Pat Fili-Krushel, Chairman, NBCUniversal News Group
Susan Gilchrist, Group CEO, Brunswick Group
Gerald Hassell, Chairman & CEO, BNY Mellon
Stephen R. Howe, Jr., Americas Managing Partner, EY
Larry Fink, Chairman & CEO, BlackRock
Kenneth M. Jacobs, Chairman & CEO, Lazard
Tom King, Co-CEO, Corporate & Investment Banking, Barclays
Ellen Kullman, Chair & CEO, DuPont
Bob Moritz, Chairman and Senior Partner, PWC
Clarke Murphy, CEO, Russell Reynolds Associates
Sheila Penrose, Chairman, JLL and Co-Chairman, Corporate Leadership Center
Punit Renjen, Chairman, Deloitte
Michael Roth, Chairman & CEO, Interpublic Group
Conrado Tenaglia, Partner, Linklaters LLP
Kent Thiry, Chairman & CEO, DaVita Healthcare Partners Inc.
Sandy Thomas, Global Managing Partner, Reed Smith
“Tiger” Tyagarajan, President & CEO, Genpact
John Veihmeyer, Global Chairman of KPMG and Chairman & CEO of KPMG in the U.S.