The effort to add women to company boards is advancing, but slowly. As of February, 681 of the 1,384 firms worldwide identified by State Street Global Advisors added a female director since the firm’s push began in 2017.
The update came ahead of International Women’s Day on Sunday and the three-year anniversary on Saturday of the installation of the “Fearless Girl” statue, which now stands in front of the New York Stock Exchange.
In July 2019, the last S&P 500 company with an all-male board added a female member.
In the United States, 495 of the 928 boards SSGA examined added women since 2017, along with 33 of 74 in Canada and 13 of 15 in the United Kingdom. In Japan, 101 of 295 boards added a woman, while 30 of 59 did so in Australia.
“This moment represents so much more than an anniversary — ‘Fearless Girl’ is about a smarter way to do business,” according to Cyrus Taraporevala, president and CEO of State Street Global Advisors. “Due in large part to the broader industry conversation sparked by [the statue’s] installation, there’s been a sea change in gender diversity on corporate boards — but this still is just the beginning of this growth story. As stewards of investor assets, we will continue to use our voice and our vote to advocate for greater gender diversity on boards.”
“Fearless Girl,” which was installed in 2017 facing down the Charging Bull statue near Wall Street, was moved to the NYSE in December 2018. Commissioned to promote the launch of the SSGA Gender Diversity Index ETF, the statue symbolizes the women’s movement and the fight to increase boardroom diversity.
In April 2019, the fund was criticized for its proxy voting record on gender-related shareholder resolutions. “Our preference continues to be constructive engagement, and we only take voting action as a last resort,” Taraporevala responded in a blog post at the time.