July 8, 2020 / 10:15 AM / a month ago

AXA's fund arm sets 33% gender diversity target on company boards

LONDON (Reuters) - AXA Investment Managers will set a 33% target for gender diversity on listed company boards in developed markets and may vote against companies which fail to meet this mark.

The asset management unit of French insurer AXA (AXAF.PA) said on Wednesday it will also introduce a target to have at least one woman on listed company boards in Japan and in emerging markets, or 10% for larger boards.

Britain’s finance ministry also has a target of 33% of women in senior management in financial firms, but said last month the pace of hiring women to top jobs was too slow.

The developed market target represents an expansion of AXA IM’s existing gender diversity policy and will be introduced next year, it said, adding that the new targets for Japan and emerging markets will be introduced this year.

Yo Takatsuki, head of ESG research and active ownership at AXA IM, said the targets were in line with holding boards of directors “accountable to best governance standards”.

Gender-diverse boards led to higher profitability and avoided issues of group think, Takatsuki said.

AXA IM can vote against approving a company’s report and accounts or the chair of its nomination committee if it decides that not enough has been done to reach its target.

The fund manager said it had voted against 230 resolutions due to gender diversity issues at 186 shareholder meetings in the year to May. It opposed resolutions due to the issue at 245 companies in 2019, compared with 45 in 2018.

Reporting by Carolyn Cohn; Editing by Alexander Smith

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