ETF Trends
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In celebration of International Women’s Day, State Street Global Advisors gave New York City’s Financial District a bold new landmark. Photo: Business Wire

To celebrate International Women’s Day and the one-year anniversary of the SPDR Gender Diversity Index ETF (NYSEArca: SHE), State Street Global Advisors has issued guidelines on increasing the number of women on corporate boards and commissioned a bronze statue placed in front of the iconic Charging Bull of Wall Street.

SSGA has called on the over 3,500 companies that the money manager invests on behalf of clients, with over $30 trillion in market capitalization, to take steps to increase the number of women on their corporate boards, according to a State Street note.

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A close-up of the statue.

As a way to mark the effort and the power of women in leadership roles, SSGA placed a statue of a young girl, representing the future, next to the Charging Bull near Wall Street in New York City’s Financial District.

“We believe good corporate governance is a function of strong, effective and independent board leadership,” Ron O’Hanley, president and chief executive officer of SSGA, said in a note. “A key contributor to effective independent board leadership is diversity of thought, which requires directors with different skills, backgrounds and expertise. Today, we are calling on companies to take concrete steps to increase gender diversity on their boards and have issued clear guidance to help them begin to take action.”

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Research and historical data have suggested that gender diversity may translate to outperformance.

According to an MSCI study, companies with strong female leadership roles showed a return on equity of 10.1% per year, compared to 7.4% for those without a critical mass of women in the lead, or a 36.4% increase of average return on equity.

Additionally, according to a 2015 McKinsey Global Institute report, if women participate in the economy identically to men, an additional $28 trillion, or 26%, may be added to annual global GDP by 2025, compared to a business as usual scenario.

To capitalize on these effects, investors could fill out their portfolios with the SPDR Gender Diversity Index ETF (SHE). The underlying Gender Diversity Index ETF tracks listed U.S. large capitalization companies with the highest levels within their sectors of gender diversity on their boards of directors and in their senior leadership.

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Nevertheless, although there have been some progress on the inclusion of women in corporate boards, almost 60% have of companies in the Russell 3000 have fewer than 15% of their boards comprising of women directors. To remedy this factor, SSGA is putting forth guidelines that could pressure change.

“As part of our review of boards’ gender diversity, we analyzed and compared the level of diversity in three markets: Australia, the UK and the US,” Rakhi Kumar, head of corporate governance at SSGA, said in a note. “Most large cap company boards in these markets have at least one female director but have yet to fully embrace gender equality in their ranks. We believe boards have an important role to play in increasing gender diversity and believe our guidance can help directors take action now.”

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