Canada’s largest public pension fund will use its substantial voting power as a large shareholder in numerous global companies to push for more women to serve on boards of directors.
The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board said it established a policy to vote against any chairman of a company’s director-nominating committee if the board has no female members. Called the Global Gender Diversity Voting Practice, CPPIB is putting it into force internationally after encouraging results in pushing companies toward more diverse boards in Canada, it said.
Mark Machin, CPPIB’s chief executive, said companies that have female directors are likely to achieve superior long-term financial results. “For that reason, engaging with companies to drive better corporate behaviours is a key part of CPPIB’s mandate," Mr. Machin said in a statement. “We have been addressing board-effectiveness issues in our portfolio for many years and hope more institutional investors will join us in advocating for diverse boards.”
The move is the latest push in Canada’s corporate world to encourage more female participation at senior levels as part of an overall increased focus on environment, safety and governance issues. Other financial institutions have made similar demands at corporate annual meetings.
This spring, the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs & Business Leaders, founded by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump, called on governments in both countries to do more to accelerate the growth of female entrepreneurship and encourage private-sector investors to provide capital to women. The group also recommended a preferential tax rate for Canadian companies owned by women.
In September, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce introduced a “Women in Leadership Bond” to fund companies striving to improve gender diversity in senior roles. The move had a hiccup when Alberta-based groups complained about a stipulation in the program that excluded fossil-fuel companies, after a number of European banks had announced they would no longer support oil sands companies. CIBC subsequently removed that funding restriction.
CPPIB, which manages $368.3-billion in assets, said it voted at annual meetings of 45 Canadian companies with male-only boards in 2017, and since then nearly half of those companies have appointed at least one woman director.
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