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Investors put gender on the agenda

Investors put gender on the agenda

Montreal and Vancouver, CANADA, August 19, 2010: A coalition of global investors managing over US$ 73 billion of assets today called on companies across the world to increase representation of qualified women on boards of directors and in senior management.

The investors are responding to a survey of 4,200 global companies that found only 9.4 per cent of directors on corporate boards were women.  This is despite numerous studies suggesting that companies with more women in senior management have superior financial performance or higher earnings quality.

These findings have led a number of mainstream investors to identify gender balance and diversity as a strategic issue in their investment activity. The investors in this new coalition have asked 54 selected companies from across the business spectrum for greater clarity about gender balance within their organisations. 

They hope to increase the representation of women on boards of directors and in senior positions to ensure companies benefit from the potential for enhanced business performance such a cultural shift offers.

The members of the coalition are all signatories to the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and the investor initiative is a response to the Women’s Empowerment Principles ¹ recently developed by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the United Nations Global Compact. The Women’s Empowerment Principles are designed to help companies take specific steps to advance and empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community.

James Gifford, Executive Director of the PRI Initiative said,
“This engagement shows that gender balance within senior corporate management is not just a social issue but also a shareholder issue. In an increasingly complex global marketplace, companies that effectively attract, hire, retain, and promote women are often better equipped to capitalise on competitive opportunities than those who do not.”

François Meloche, Extrafinancial Risks Manager, Bâtirente,
We think that companies with diversity on boards, in terms of both gender and experience, are better long term investments. There is a correlation between financial performance and board diversity.

Dermot Foley, Strategic Analyst, Vancity Investment Management,
“In Canada, only 10 per cent of Board seats are held by women, and in the top 60 publicly traded companies, there are no women CEO’s. ² A diversity of perspectives on the Board and in management leads to better decision-making and improves the quality of governance. As Canada’s population and economy changes, diverse companies will also be better equipped to compete for employees, customers and clients. At Vancity, we strongly believe in being leaders in diversity, with 11 of our 18 Board and Executive positions held by women, and are working hard to encourage others to do the same.“

Julie Normandeau
Responsable des communications, Bâtirente
514 525 5740, extension 2425 / 1 800 253 0131

Stephanie Vicic
Vancity Media Relations

  • The full list of PRI signatories participating in this engagement are: PaxWorld, The Co-operative Asset management, Calvert Bâtirente, Folksam, Vancity Investments, Boston Trust, Etica SGR, FIR Capital.  
  • The eight countries in which the companies are based are United States, Canada, Brazil, United Kingdom, Sweden, Switzerland, France and Italy.
  • The studies referenced in this press release include that of Governance Metrics International (11 March 2010), a study by Francoeur et al., Adams and Ferriera and Catalyst, Kirshnan and Parsons.  
  • Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI)
    The Principles for Responsible Investment, convened by UNEP FI and the UN Global Compact, was established as a framework to help investors achieve better long-term investment returns and sustainable markets through better analysis of environmental, social and governance issues in investment process and the exercise of responsible ownership practices. The Principles themselves, a full list of signatories and more information can be found at

About Batirente
Bâtirente is a non-profit labour organization created by the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CNTU/CSN). With 300,000 members in Quebec, their mandate is to set up and promote workplace retirement plans and investment funds, and are a leader in developing Responsible Investment practices. As at December 31, 2009, Bâtirente managing assets reached $789.6 million.

About Vancouver City Savings Credit Union
Vancity is Canada’s largest credit union, with $14.4 billion in assets, more than 414,000 members, and 59 branches throughout Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Victoria and Squamish. Vancity is guided by a commitment to improving the quality of life in the communities where we live and work.


¹The Women’s Empowerment Principles, the product of collaboration between UNIFEM and the UN Global Compact informed by an international multi-stakeholder consultation, are adapted from the Calvert Women’s Principles®.
²2009 Catalyst Census: Financial Post 500 Women Board Directors