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CalPERS sends letters to 504 companies regarding lack of gender diversity on their boards

CalPERS is stepping up efforts to increase the number of women on corporate boards, spokeswoman Megan White confirmed in an email Tuesday.

The latest effort involves sending letters to 504 companies in the Russell 3000 index that have no women on their boards of directors.

While the $330.2 billion California Public Employees' Retirement System, Sacramento, also advocates for corporate boards to include minorities, Ms. White said the new initiative is aimed at women because data are available since companies are required to report the gender of board members.

CalPERS is asking "that each company develop and disclose its corporate board diversity policy and implementation plan to address the lack of diversity," a CalPERS news release said.

"Simply put, board diversity is good for business," said Anne Simpson, CalPERS investment director, sustainability, in the news release. "It is essential in today's global economy that boards avoid 'group think' and ensure there is the breadth of experience, skills and knowledge necessary to meet complex business needs."

Ms. Simpson said in the news release that CalPERS will closely monitor the companies' "progress," but she cautioned the pension fund could withhold votes in support of board members if the issue of women is not addressed.

While CalPERS has engaged with companies over board diversity in the past, Ms. White said this is the first time the pension fund has written formal letters to more than 500 companies on the topic.