The July 9 issue of RI contained a lengthy and thoughtful interview with Helena Morrissey of the 30% Club, which like our Thirty Percent Coalition in the U.S., has a common goal of increasing the number of women on boards, and we congratulate the 30% Club on its success in the UK, much of it doubtless owing to the energy and intelligence of its leader.
Perhaps, Ms. Morrissey has confused the Coalition and its strategy with the work of some other organization since her description of our organization and, in particular, our letter to companies with no women directors is inaccurate. However, we do agree with the assessment that naming and shaming is not a constructive strategy and we do not practice it.
We are the co-chairs of the Institutional Investor Committee of the Thirty Percent Coalition, which is a collaborative coalition of about 70 institutional investors, companies, professional firms, government officials, business leaders, governance experts, and leading women’s organizations. This committee coordinated a series of letters to companies with no women directors. They were signed by investors (all global), and women’s organizations representing over $1.2 trillion in AUM.
The Thirty Percent Coalition focuses on educating the market-place, principally public corporations, executive search firms, listing and exchange organizations, among others, by sharing with these essential constituencies the business and shareholder value case that has alreadybeen made for board and gender diversity. We were gratified that a number of companies responded to our letters and that many of them confirmed that diverse boards and management are in their business interests. As we know, the pace of change has been glacial in the U.S., so we are pleased to have played a key role in prompting 17 companies that previously had no women board members to appoint women directors.
Achieving diversity on boards and in management ranks is a fundamental challenge for all of the important institutions and traditions globally and as with any such important and necessary achievement, there are many varied and valid ways to approach this change. We agree that it is important to focus on the goal and to look for opportunities to collaborate in the pursuit of its achievement.
It is also useful to note that the UK market has some very important levers that do not currently exist in the US market, not the least of which is the nine year term presumption against director independence which serves as a de facto term limit. The refreshing of boards or tenure is an important issue as we consider board diversity in the US and we look forward to Ms. Morrissey’s contribution on this and many other aspects of this important matter.
Charlotte Laurent-Ottomane is Executive Director of the Thirty Percent Coalition. The letter is signed by Janice Hester-Amey and Timothy Smith
Janice Hester-Amey and Timothy Smith are the Co-Chairs of the Institutional Investor Committee of the Thirty Percent Coalition. Janice is a Portfolio Manager at CalSTRS, the largest educator fund in the world with over $188 billion in AUM and Timothy is Senior Vice President with Boston Trust/Walden Asset Management with over $8 billion in AUM.