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Norwegian wealth fund pushes for more gender diversity on portfolio companies’ boards

Norway’s US$1.3 trillion sovereign wealth fund is pushing its investees to increase gender diversity on their boards.

Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM) is considering setting targets if women account for fewer than a third of all directors.

READ: FTSE 100 falls short on ESG standards as no black people hold top roles

The world’s largest fund of its kind, it holds stakes in 9,200 companies worldwide and 1.5% of global listed stocks.

Of these, 375 are London-listed companies for investments worth GBP53.5bn, including FTSE 100 constituents such as Associated British Foods (LON:ABF), AstraZeneca (LON:AZN) and Land Securities (LON:LAND).

According to the 2020 interim report, the UK was the fund’s largest European market with 6.9% of its equity investments.

“What we want to see is better representation of women on the boards,” Carine Smith Ihenacho, NBIM’s chief governance and compliance officer, told Reuters.

“Diversity is good for the board because it brings better perspective, it is better for decision-making and increasingly important for the legitimacy of companies… It (a lack of female representation) could also be a red flag, that a company does not have a good process to recruit the best director.”

Across the FTSE 100 index, women took 36% of board roles in December, with just five employing more female directors than male.

However, just nine out of 100 companies achieved and almost a third of companies were yet to meet the 33% target set by the government, according to a report from jobs firm Debut.

Back in 2015, Westminster set up the goal of all FTSE 350 boards having 33% female representation by 2020, which would bring to 350 more women in top positions.

The recommendation came after FTSE 100 reached a milestone of 25% of board positions being filled by women set four years prior.

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