On Tuesday, State Street Global Advisors issued a strong statement about gender equality. The money manager, with roughly $2.5 trillion under management, announced it would pressure 3,500 companies worth $30 trillion in market cap to aim for gender parity on their boards.
"Today, we are calling on companies to take concrete steps to increase gender diversity on their boards and have issued clear guidance to help them begin to take action," Ron O'Hanley, CEO of SSGA said in a statement.
The tough talk came with a visual component as well. In southern Manhattan, SSGA has installed a statue of a little girl—fists on hips—in front of the famous charging bull of Wall Street.
The statue is intended to mark International Women's Day and the firm's push for gender parity. "SSGA has placed a statue of a young girl, representing the future, in the center of the world’s financial capital—right near Wall Street in New York City," it said in a statement.
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In commending SSGA's new initiative, Chris Ailman, chief investment officer of CalSTRS, said the statue "boldly signals to financial markets that the future depends on investing in the power of women. We all need to lean in and be bold for change now."
In its announcement Tuesday, SSGA said it will exercise its proxy voting power on those companies in which it owns a stake to help balance out the gender diversity of their boards.
“Most large-cap company boards in these markets have at least one female director but have yet to fully embrace gender equality in their ranks. We believe boards have an important role to play in increasing gender diversity and believe our guidance can help directors take action now," said Rakhi Kumar, head of corporate governance at SSGA.
The SSGA release notes that despite research pointing to stronger returns for companies with solid female leadership, one out of every four Russell 3000 companies lack a single female board member. At nearly 60% of firms, less than 15% of board seats belong to women.