A Math Challenge for Tech’s Gender Gap

Even if companies pledge to making women the majority of new hires, redressing the gender imbalance at companies like Facebook, Apple, and Google could take more than a decade, according to Jennifer Saba in an article at Reuters Breakingviews. In the age of #MeToo, Silicon Valley firms face new scrutiny about male dominance in their labor force. Reuters also provides a handy calculator to project when a company could achieve gender parity.

Key quotes:

  • “[A]t 200 companies surveyed, women made up 36 percent of entry level positions in the technology sector but just 27 percent of middle-management positions. The figures were worse for positions at vice-president level or above.”
  • “Say Google, Facebook and Apple committed to 51 percent of new staff being women – pretty close to the overall makeup of the labor market.
  • “Based on the rate their workforces expanded last year, and assuming one in five existing workers quit and are replaced annually, it would take Apple 15 years to reach parity. Google would do it in 14, and Facebook in a faster-but-still-slow seven years.
  • “Small steps make a big difference. Set a truly bold goal of six in 10 new hires being women, keeping all else constant, and all three companies would achieve parity within six years.”

Inside the tech industry, efforts like #CauseAScene raise the issue of “inclusion and diversity as the latest marketing buzz words” rather than occasioning substantive change. The sorts of efforts that Saba points to in her article could well occasion real change in Big Tech. Concern about the gender gap in the workforce complements SGI’s work in Racial Justice Investing. Making workforce composition more transparent will help industry leaders, investors, and stakeholders take meaningful steps toward an authentically inclusive and diverse workforce.

Member statement at Kohl’s AGM

Yesterday, Frank Sherman, Chris Cox, and Tim Dewane attended the annual shareholder meeting at Kohl’s. For Kohl’s, the shareholder meeting was the closing of a significant chapter in the company’s history and the beginning of a new chapter. Having begun his career with the company in 1982, Kohl’s CEO Kevin Mansell retired, a post he has held since 2008. With the retirement, Michelle Gass is the company’s new CEO.

Tim Dewane

ICCR and SGI have a long history of engagement with Kohl’s. At the shareholder meeting, Tim Dewane, the JPIC director for the School Sisters of Notre Dame of the Central Pacific Province offered a statement:

Good morning Mr. Chairman and Kohl’s Board members. My name is Tim Dewane, I am the JPIC Director for the School Sisters of Notre Dame of the Central Pacific Province. The School Sisters of Notre Dame CPP are a long time shareholder of Kohl’s and a member of Seventh Generation Interfaith, an ICCR-affiliated coalition of faith-based institutional investors that has engaged in positive dialogue with Kohl’s for nearly 20 years. Our members first sat down with Kevin Mansell and Rick Schepp in 2000 to provide input into the language of Kohl’s Terms of Engagement, a set of standards on worker rights and working conditions for its suppliers throughout the world. Since 2000, faith-based shareholders have met with the company annually and have seen improvements its supplier’s performance on workplace human rights as well as significant improvement in its’ environmental sustainability of your operations through a variety of programs that are described in its 2017 CSR report.

We welcome Michelle Gass as Kohl’s new Chief Executive Officer, the first woman to occupy this important position at the company. We look forward to working with you and your staff. As you build on the legacy of Kevin Mansell we encourage you to expand and deepen the integration of Kohl’s commitment to corporate social responsibility throughout the company’s business strategy and messaging to customers, investors and to society. In the current environment, stakeholders and rating agencies, who have incorporated social and environmental criteria into their valuation of companies, are expecting more transparency of Kohl’s and other companies. Kohl’s has a good story to tell, one that we are working on to improve with every meeting we have with you.

We encourage you to apply ‘human rights due diligence,’ based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the new global norm, to identify potential risks to people and communities, especially where your business partners operate in high risk countries where rule of law is weak. In addition, we encourage Kohl’s to join a number of companies in aligning its CSR strategies to the realization of the UN Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015 to eradicate poverty, gender inequity, child and forced labor, adverse impacts of climate change, among others, by 2030.

Larry Fink, Chair and CEO of Blackrock, stated in his Letter to CEOs entitled, A Sense of Purpose, “Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.” Pope Francis has echoed the understanding of many our own Kohl’s customers when he said that purchasing is not simply an economic act, but also a moral one. We are called to love and care for our neighbors as our selves and in today’s world our neighbor includes not only the folks in this room, or those here in Menominee Falls, but all those whose lives touch ours – including the garment workers in Bangladesh and elsewhere.

We look forward to working with you to build on Kohl’s solid commitment to quality and community – with profits we can all live with. Thank you!

A PDF version of Tim’s statement can be found here.

Update: NYT reports on investors’ letter to Disney

In February, we posted news of SGI and its members joining other investors in a letter to Disney to restrict smoking in products from newly acquired Fox film and television assets. Yesterday, The New York Times carried news of our letter in an article entitled “There’s No Smoking in Disney Films. What About When It Owns Fox?

More about the engagement with Disney on tobacco can be found here:

SGI joins investor statement on 5th Anniversary of Rana Plaza Disaster

At the fifth anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh which resulted in the deaths of over 1,100 garment workers, SGI joins ICCR members in an investor statement assessing advancements made to improve worker health and safety in the Bangladesh apparel sector.

Within months of the disaster, the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety was established as a model for collective action between brands and retailers sourcing in Bangladesh, as well as global and local trade unions, and NGOs, to inspect the country’s apparel factories and implement necessary reforms to safeguard workers.

Led by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, the Bangladesh Investor initiative, an investor coalition comprising 250 institutional investors representing over $4.5 trillion in assets under management, was formed in May of 2013 to urge a strong corporate response to Rana Plaza including participation in the Accord. Further, in their engagements with companies the investors made four main recommendations:

  • Join the legally binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety (Accord) signed by trade unions, brands and retailers with NGOs as witness signatories;
  • Commit to strengthening local trade unions and ensuring a living wage for all workers including through their engagement with the Bangladesh government;
  • Publicly disclose all their suppliers including those from Bangladesh;
  • Ensure that appropriate grievance mechanisms and effective remedies, including compensation, are in place for affected workers and families.

The investors argue that supply chain transparency is critical to safeguarding worker safety and employer responsibility since visibility into extended supply chains, including sub-contractors, is a precondition to identifying risks, including safety, forced labor, harassment, discrimination and denial of freedom of association.

“Stakeholders, including investors, rely on transparency as a tool for evaluating corporate performance on a range of social, environmental and governance issues,” observed Lauren Compere, Managing Director of Boston Common Asset Management. “The Accord has been very transparent in requiring disclosure of each of the 1,600 factories it covers which helps investors track progress. This disclosure requirement is a ‘best practice’ that all companies need to implement, beginning with 1st tier suppliers, then throughout their extended supply chains.”

The Accord model has proven to be effective due to the binding nature of the agreement, and a governance structure that has equal representation of brands and trade unions with an independent chair from the International Labor Organization.

“We applaud the Accord for Fire and Building Safety for establishing safer factories through collective action at an unprecedented level, with 220 brands using their leverage to change supplier behavior in partnership with global and local trade unions,” said David Schilling, Senior Program Director, ICCR. “This transformative model should be applied and adapted to at-risk supply chains in other sectors and countries.”

Investors have been pressing companies and their boards to take the ‘high road’ when setting prices to enable factories to pay fair wages and comply with workplace human rights standards, including freedom of association and collective bargaining.

“Investors have the ability to influence company directors. This means that moral responsibilities accompany the rights we enjoy as shareholders,” said Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer, Aviva Investors. “The casual disregard for employee welfare demonstrated by the directors involved in the Rana Plaza catastrophe should be unacceptable to anyone. As institutional investors, we should challenge corruption and exploitation in all its forms wherever we find it. Ensuring we motivate the right kinds of corporate behavior is part of our own duty to our clients.”

While the investors are pleased with progress made by the Accord, they emphasize that the job of remediating all the issues is far from done and will continue to urge those companies that have not signed on to the 2018 Accord and its three-year extension to do so.

“It has been five years since the nightmare that took place at Rana Plaza, and while significant progress has been made by the Accord to address the root causes of the tragedy, we must not forget that these workplace risks persist in many sectors across the globe,” said Sr. Barbara Aires of the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, NJ. “The moral and business imperative for corporations to preempt these risks by implementing comprehensive safeguards throughout their supply chains is clear. As investors and stakeholders, we will continue to monitor progress on these concerns in the Bangladesh apparel sector and beyond.”

To see the full statement, please visit here. See more from ICCR here.

SGI Webinar Recording: Health

Hearing from both members and ICCR colleagues (Donna Meyer of Mercy Investment Servces and Meg Jones-Monteiro of the ICCR staff), this webinar provides tools for an understanding of our engagements in nutrition, insurance, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, and opioids as well as global health issues. This webinar also proposes time efficient ways of deepening our engagement with these issues.

The article, mentioned by Donna, about the relative expenses of research and development and marketing for pharmaceutical companies can be found here or in a PDF version here.

If you have any questions from the content of the webinar, please, feel free to direct them to us at SeventhGenerationInt@gmail.com.

As always, we welcome your feedback via a confidential evaluation found here.

SGI Health Webinar on April 20

We are pleased to offer our second quarterly webinar on shareholder engagement in health. The webinar will take place on Friday, April 20th, at 10 a.m. (Central). It will last 90 minutes. We will hear from both members and ICCR colleagues who lead components of our health campaigns. This webinar will provide tools for an understanding of our engagements in nutrition, insurance, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, and opioids as well as global health issues. This webinar will also propose time efficient ways of deepening our engagement with these issues.

SGI members should have received an email with the data to log on to the webinar. If for some reason you have not received it, please contact our associate director, Chris Cox, at SeventhGenerationInt@gmail.com.

ICCR and SGI: Shareholders Committed to the Rights of Immigrants

Four SGI members participated in ICCR‘s Spring Conference: Sr. Ruth Battaglia, C.S.A., Chris Cox, Frank Sherman, and Friar Robert Wotypka, O.F.M., Cap. This post from Sr. Ruth is another report of what we heard and learned at the conference.

The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Agnes has a strong connection to immigrant communities and their needs. The congregation was founded in 1885 in response to the faith needs of German immigrants in Wisconsin. When Hmong, who were allies of the United States in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War and later stages of the Laotian Civil War, started seeking asylum as political refugees after the communist takeover in both nations in 1975, the Sisters of St. Agnes were instrumental in welcoming them and helping them resettle in Fond du Lac, WI. Today, sisters in Arizona provide legal aid and other forms of assistance to the immigrant population along the Naco border with Mexico. Recently the congregation has been advocating on behalf of Dreamers and for a just US immigration policy. They are pleased to join ICCR’s effort to invite companies to look at their policies and practices around immigration.

ICCR believes that just and equitable immigration policies are critical to a stable and prosperous business environment and will promote sustainable communities. At its recent conference in New York, an ICCR session was devoted to the topic of immigration. While some companies claim that immigration does not affect them, they need only look down their supply chain to discover how immigration impacts them. They also will discover that immigrants are very vulnerable to injustices.

In engagement with companies on immigration investors must ask:

  • Who is responsible for corporate risk oversight on labor/immigration issues?
  • What risks face immigrant workers? Are all workers covered by company policies on worker health and safety, fair wages, benefits? Do workers have a way to report grievances without fear of retaliation?
  • How does the company assess engagement with the community when it hires immigrant labor, addressing fears, reducing tensions? How does it relate to ICE? If the number of immigrants decline, where will the company look for qualified employees?
  • What are the company’s public policy positions on immigration? Does it publicly support comprehensive immigration reform? Is it supportive of the “Agricultural Worker Program Act” which was introduced in Congress to provide a path to lawful permanent residency for agricultural workers?

One breakout group grappled with guidelines for companies that rely on immigrants in the workforce (beauty, agriculture, textiles, farm-workers) asking them to prohibit passport retention, exactment of fees, harassment and discrimination. Also, the group suggested asking companies to provide contracts and to grant the right to assemble and to bargain collectively. Another group asked, “What is the role of investors in tech companies and airlines who are involved in immigrant surveillance?” And another dealt with the question “Who finances the harm?” Can the financial sector engage in pro-immigrant practices?

It was evident that this newer area of endeavor for ICCR, while complex and involving hard work, was well received by conference attendees ready to accept the challenge of engagement with companies on behalf of immigrants. In accord with a strong theme of the conference, it would be a collaborative effort with immigrants whose voices and experience would shape the efforts.

In February Seventh Generation hosted a very informative webinar, Immigration and the Shareholder. Check it out. https://seventhgenerationinterfaith.org/2018/02/17/sgi-webinar-recording-immigration-and-the-shareholder

Sister Ruth Battaglia is the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Coordinator for the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes.