Illustration of growing gender diversity of people
Investor challenge

Moving the Needle on Gender Parity Through Active Ownership


A lack of women in board-level corporate leadership positions at public companies.


We vote proxies to support resolutions calling for greater gender parity and board diversity.


Majority of year-to-date resolutions on board diversity have received strong support and positive corporate responses.


Investors are increasingly concerned about the lack of women in corporate leadership positions, particularly on boards of directors. In addition to concerns surrounding equal opportunity, investors worry about the potentially detrimental impact on corporate performance from homogeneous decision-making teams.

The challenge is plain to see when you look at the numbers. When it comes to women on boards, the United States lags nearly all other developed countries. As of May 2021, according to MSCI ESG Research, women occupied only 28.9% of board seats at large-cap US companies. If you include small- and mid-cap companies, the average drops to 24.3%.

Although larger institutional asset owners may be able to directly influence companies on this matter via corporate engagement, smaller institutional or individual asset owners may not have the bandwidth or sway to monitor or act on this issue. So how do they influence change?

Parametric solution

Although some investment managers recommend avoiding companies with few or no women on their boards, Parametric believes that owning and then attempting to influence companies on this issue is necessary to most effectively inspire change.

Our proxy-voting guidelines support shareholder resolutions that ask management to improve the state of gender parity on their boards, especially at US companies. For example,

  • Asking the board to make greater efforts to find qualified women and minority candidates for board nominations
  • Endorsing a policy of board inclusiveness
  • Supporting reports to shareholders on a company’s efforts to increase board diversity

Parametric also generally supports requests for reporting on a company’s policies and goals to reduce any gender pay gap. This bolsters the objective of gender parity beyond the most senior level.

Source: MSCI ESG Research, 5/1/2021. Based on MSCI ACWI Index constituents domiciled within each country.


While there’s no level of support that requires a company to act on shareholder resolutions, double-digit support is typically considered noteworthy, and 50% support begins to reach a level where companies are expected to respond.

This material is provided for illustrative purposes only and should not be construed as investment advice, a recommendation to buy or sell specific securities, or direction to adopt any particular investment strategy. This material is based on the experiences and observations of Parametric. No representation is made that a client will, or is likely to, achieve results similar to those presented. Actual results will differ and may differ substantially from the example provided. Client outcomes will differ depending on each client’s specific circumstances as well as changes in securities or financial markets or general economic conditions. All investments are subject to risks, including the risk of loss.

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