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United front

California treasurer joins group promoting safe workplaces

Fiona Ma adopted principles for workplaces free of sexual harassment.

Fiona Ma, the new California treasurer and a trustee for both CalPERS and CalSTRS, has joined a coalition of asset owner trustees and others urging those in the investment industry to adopt principles to mitigate the risk of sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace.

Trustees United, the coalition of pension plan trustees that includes the $362.7 billion California Public Employees' Retirement System, Sacramento, and the $227.8 billion California State Teachers' Retirement System, West Sacramento, was launched in January with a set of four safe workplace principles.

"This is an important day. ... It's the 20th anniversary of ... Denim Day. Women and men all over the world are standing up for the rights of women to be free from sexual assault," Ms. Ma said at an April 24 news conference announcing her adoption of the principles.

The principles, aimed at helping investors manage risk on the issue, include urging corporate boards to support their employees' rights to bring forward claims of sexual harassment and violence without fear of retaliation as well as a principle against the use of non-disclosure agreements and forced arbitration policies that "reinforce the silence that perpetuates harassment."

She said sexual harassment and misconduct are not only distressing and sometimes devastating for workers affected but are also "bad for business."

Sexual harassment and misconduct "leave companies open to significant operational, financial and reputational risks," said Theresa Taylor, co-founder of Trustees United and a CalPERS trustee who also spoke at the news conference.

Not only did the group's founders, all female California pension fund trustees, draft and publicize the principles, but they worked to have their organizations incorporate the principles into their policies and beliefs, Ms. Taylor said.

The coalition now includes national and international trustees as well as money managers and service providers, said Dana Dillon, a co-founder of Trustees United and CalSTRS board chairwoman who also spoke at the event.

The principles are on the group's website at trusteesunited.com.