DE&I round-up: Iceland leads on women NED representation

BNP Paribas AM increases women board representation threshold by 5%; Bank of Japan appoints all-male management.

Iceland is the only European country exceeding the 40 percent threshold for women non-executive directors (NEDs), according to research from ISS Corporate Solutions. France and Norway are within a couple of percentage points, while Switzerland, Luxembourg, Greece, Ireland and the UK have been identified as laggards. Women NEDs currently account for 25.4 percent of the total in the UK, while in the other three countries the figure is below 25 percent. Despite leading on NED representation, Iceland was one of only two countries with no women chairs, alongside Ireland. Female executive representation was much lower on average across Europe, with Norway leading on 17.9 percent. The women on boards directive – which was approved last year – means publicly-listed companies in the European Union will have to meet the 40 percent NED target, or 33 percent director target, by 2026.

UK-listed companies will be required by the Financial Conduct Authority to disclose their progress on board diversity on a “comply or explain” basis this April. A spokesperson for the regulator said: “These disclosures will provide the transparency to allow investors to hold listed companies to account for their progress in achieving diversity in their senior leadership and in the board room. We have said that we’ll review the impact of the policy in 2025.”

BNP Paribas Asset Management is increasing its minimum threshold for women on boards by 5 percent and enhancing its voting policy for gender diversity this year. The asset manager reported a 2 percentage point increase for women on boards representatives across its investee companies last year across Asia, Latin America, North America and Europe.

An all-male management team has been appointed to lead the Bank of Japan. Kazuo Ueda will succeed Haruhiko Kuroda as governor, while FSA commissioner Ryozo Himino and executive director Shinichi Uchida have been selected as deputies. In the central bank’s 140-year history, no woman has ever held any of the top posts. The BoJ has pledged to raise the number of women managers from 6 percent to 10 percent by 2023.

Hawaii has proposed legislation requiring all companies have a minimum of one woman or non-binary director and one man or non-binary director on their board by the end of 2023, increasing to three women or non-binary members and three men or non-binary members by 2025. Companies which do not meet the target could be fined $5,000 annually for violating the law, or $500 for failing to report on their board diversity.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has invested GEL18.8 million ($7 million, €6.6 million) in a two-year gender bond from Microfinance Organisation Crystal. The bond is the first in the format issued in the South Caucasus region and Georgian Stock Exchange. Proceeds will be used to provide funding to female-led SMEs. ADB acted as anchor investor on the deal, which had a total size of GEL25 million.

AllianceBernstein has launched a Diversity Champions Equity Portfolio. The Article 9 fund will invest in global companies which are aligned with at least one of the three SDGs focused on promoting gender equality and reducing inequalities. It will use AllianceBernstein’s six-pillar diversity assessment to determine which companies to include and will be benchmarked against the MSCI ACWI. It will be managed by Vivian Lubrano and Gayle Baldwin.

Abrdn has published its voting priorities for 2023, listing diversity on US boards as one of its three main priorities. The asset manager has increased its targets for gender diversity on the boards of large US companies to 30 percent female representation. It will continue to engage with smaller companies if a board does not include at least one woman director. Last year, it did not support the re-election of the nomination committee chairs at 51 US companies which failed to meet its gender diversity expectations.