Board Women & Fearless Girl Unite!

Ann Taylor Parent Company's CEO & Board Promote Gender Balance

By Eve Tahmincioglu

There have been lots of photos of and selfies with the Fearless Girl bronze statute in New York's financial district, but one taken this week may have been the most poignant.

Four female board members from a top retailer with brands such as Ann Taylor and Justice posed for a photograph in hopes of sending a strong message to Corporate America – put more women on boards.

“We are proud to stand in solidarity with each other and with the 'Fearless Girl' to honor the significant impact and growing influence women have on the future of business and society,” said Kay Krill, a board member of Ascena Retail Group, Inc., and former President and CEO of Ann Inc. “As female leaders, we believe boards need to make meaningful progress in gender equality now for the next generation of women as well as for economic success.”

State Street Global Advisors installed the statute directly facing Wall Street’s iconic bull. Regarding the Fearless Girl, the company stated in a message on its website:

“As one of the largest investment managers in the world and a significant shareholder we believe that corporate board diversity enhances board quality and effectiveness as it brings together directors with different skills, backgrounds and expertise.”

It's part of the firm’s campaign to pressure corporations to put more women on boards. On International Women’s Day, the company published guidelines for companies to follow in order to appoint more women, and the firm said in a statement it  “will use proxy voting power to influence change.”

Corporations may want to follow Ascena’s "fearless" lead. The company’s board has an equal number of men and women. (The company also owns LOFT, Lou & Grey, Lane Bryant, Maurices, Dressbarn and Catherines brands.)

David Jaffe, Ascena’s President and CEO, said, “A few years ago, we made the very intentional decision to completely transform our Board with a greater emphasis on gender balance.”

“Gender parity,” he added, “is an issue we feel strongly about, especially as a family of brands that serves women and girls.”