US - Six firms have agreed to calls by the California State Teachers' Retirement System for greater diversity in their board of directors.
CalSTRS withdrew proposals with Digital River, Hansen Natural, Waddell and Reed, Kirkby Corp., Eagle Materials and Helix Energy, as the six companies have agreed to actively consider diversity as a criterion in their board member recruitment process.
Five of the companies changed their nomination committee charters to facilitate the diversity of their boards, while Helix Energy has nominated Nancy Quinn as its first female director.
These firms represent six of the eight shareholder proposals filed this year. CalSTRS will continue to work with NutriSystem and Liberty Global, which took the public pension fund's proposals to a vote of their shareholders. However, the proposals received 10% and 18.25% in favour, at respective companies.
CalSTRS director of Corporate Governance Anne Sheehan said: "We hope this year's progress will serve as an indicator that companies are more willing than they have been to developing more diverse boards."
The pension fund says that corporate accountability has become an important issue and the current economic challenges are forcing a review of the role of boards of directors in the long term growth of publicly held companies.
It said that the success of CalSTRS this proxy season is a sign that progress is being made on an issue which has previously experienced little progression. Research from Catalyst's survey of Fortune 500 companies showed only slight increases in the number of women named as directors, rising from 14.8% in 2007 to 15.2% in 2008.
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