put more women on their forums By Reuters

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By Gwladys Fouche OSLO (Reuters) – The world’s largest $ 1.3 trillion Norwegian sovereign wealth fund wants the companies it invests in globally to increase the number of women on their boards and consider setting targets if less than 30% of its directors are women, senior fund officials told Reuters. The fund, one of the world’s largest investors, has interests in around 9,200 companies worldwide and owns 1.5% of all listed shares. He has set the pace on a number of issues in the environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) fields. Boards where either gender has less than 30% representation should consider setting goals for gender diversity and reporting on progress, the fund said in a position paper shared with Reuters before publication later Monday. “We can put it politely, but it’s pretty clear what we think,” Chief Executive Nicolai Tangen said in an interview. “What we want to see is better representation of women on boards,” added Carine Smith Ihenacho, the fund’s director of governance and compliance. “Diversity is good for the board because it provides a better perspective, it is better for decision making and increasingly important for the legitimacy of companies,” said Smith Ihenacho. “Also (the lack of female representation) could be a red flag, that a company does not have a good process to hire the best director.” Most of the other large institutional investors have a general request for boards to be diverse, and some are increasingly prepared to oppose boards that they feel are not diverse enough, but have generally not set precise targets for female representation. VOTING In 2003, Norway became the first country in the world to impose a gender quota, requiring nearly 500 companies, including 175 companies listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange, to raise the proportion of women on their boards of directors to 40 %. Some other countries have followed similar lines, such as Great Britain, which aims for 33% representation on councils. Starting next AGM season, the Norwegian fund will lobby by voting against the appointments of the nominating committees for companies that do not have at least two women on the board. “We will start with developed markets and companies where women are underrepresented, in mid-size and large-cap companies in the United States and Europe,” Smith Ihenacho said. He didn’t mention names, but candidates for attention this year may include British automaker Aston Martin and used car online auction firm Copart (NASDAQ 🙂 in the United States, which have a woman, respectively. in their directories. The fund will abstain from voting against if companies can have a “very good explanation, such as a clear plan, with clear objectives, or for a recent resignation that affected the gender balance in this board of directors,” Smith Ihenacho said. Last year, the fund voted against the nominating committees of 16 companies, all large and medium-sized companies from the United States and Europe, because they had all-male boards of directors, he said. One of them was Domino’s Pizza (NYSE :), which is listed in London, the fund’s data showed. Since then, the firm has appointed two women to its board of directors. Dialogue with companies and voting at AGMs is the focus of the policy, he added, rather than divesting from companies that do not comply with the policy. Still, the fund can, and does, divest from companies that fail to meet their positions on the ESG issues it prioritizes: Last year, it divested from seven companies for tax transparency. The fund only has a specific objective on gender diversity at present and not on other aspects such as age or ethnicity, for example, because the latter can vary in relevance from one sector to another or from one country to another, he said. Smith Ihenacho. “But what is relevant for all countries is that women in general are underrepresented and that is why we have a (gender) objective,” said Smith Ihenacho. Globally, 17% of company boards do not have a single woman, he said. “We really believe that diversity creates better thinking and better creativity and better business,” Tangen said. “The more diverse the group of people sitting together, the more creative solutions you get, and therefore the better business. You get better innovations, better solutions. It’s just good.”