Ross Kerber and Simon Jessop, Reuters, December 10, 2020
Goldman Sachs Group’s asset-management arm will pressure U.S. companies to appoint more women and members of under-represented groups to their boards, an executive said, but will stop short of setting specific numerical targets for racial and ethnic diversity as some activists urge.
After pushing companies in its investment portfolio to include at least one woman director since 2019, Goldman Sachs next year wants boards to have a second director from an under-represented background, Catherine Winner, head of stewardship efforts for the $1.8 trillion unit, said in an interview.
For that second spot, Goldman’s definition of diversity includes gender identity, sexual orientation and under-represented race and ethnic groups, and a board with two white women would meet the standard.
Goldman Sachs itself meets the standard based on details in its proxy.
The asset-management arm can exert leverage at companies where it is an important shareholder. The firm casts proxy votes at more than 9,000 corporate annual meetings a year, and last year 25% of its votes against directors were due to a lack of a woman on the board.
Winner said Goldman stopped short of urging companies to add a racially or ethnically diverse director outright because of challenges around obtaining this information.
Among top U.S. companies 8% of directors are Black and 5% are Hispanic or Latino, well below the groups’ share of the U.S. population, 13% and 19% respectively.