Gender and Minority Pay Equity

Women: Arjuna Capital remains the most prolific of the proponents in this area; the New York City pension funds is a key player, too. Additional proposals on pay equity are from Proxy Impact, a shareholder advocacy advisor, and Pax World Funds submitted and withdrew one proposal.

Arjuna is asking 11 companies, eight of them for the second year running to report on gender pay disparity:

• At six companies—Adobe Systems, American
, Bank of New York Mellon, Citigroup, Intel and
Wells Fargo—it wants a description of “the risks to the
company associated with emerging public policies
addressing the gender pay gap
, including associated
reputational, competitive, and operational risks, and risks related to recruiting and retaining female talent.” It says the gender pay gap is “the difference between male and female median earnings expressed as a percentage of male earnings,” as defined by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The proposal this year is somewhat more specific than last year, when it simply asked for policies and goals “to reduce the gender pay gap.”

• At the other six—Alphabet,, Bank of America, Facebook, JPMorganChase and Mastercard—it seeks a“report on the company’s global median gender pay gap” as well as the information requested in the other resolution on risks.


Michael Passoff
CEO, Proxy Impact

Numerous studies show women are paid less than their male counterparts. This is a key challenge for companies as they face reputational risk, consumer backlash, new legislation and governmental and employee lawsuits. Just the perception of a gender pay gap can make it hard to recruit or keep top talent.

Votes last year for Arjuna on pay equity were 15.7 percent at Alphabet, 15.1 percent at Express Scripts and 10 percent at Facebook. The group withdrew most of its 2018 filings after reaching agreements with major banks about actions they planned to take to close their pay gaps.

At 10 companies, the New York City pension funds want to know “whether there exists a gender pay gap among the company’s employees, and if so, the measures being taken (policies, programs, goals etc.) to eliminate any such pay disparities and to facilitate an environment that promotes opportunities for equal advancement for women.” It asks for the report by December 2019.

Proxy Impact has asked Analog Devices, CIGNA and Pfizer to report “identifying whether a gender pay gap exists among its employees, and if so, outline the steps being taken to reduce the gap.” It also uses the OECD pay gap definition.

Withdrawals—Arjuna has withdrawn following an agreement at Citigroup. Pax World Funds withdrew after Citizens Financial agreed to enhance its pay equity disclosures. It has asked the same things as Proxy Impact—about whether a pay gap exists and any corrective steps underway.

Proxy Impact withdrew after a significant commitment from Pfizer. The company will hire outside experts to assess in the first half of 2019 whether it has a global gender pay gap and a U.S. race pay gap, and the sources for any gaps, and report publicly on the results by no later than early 2020. The company says, “we believe we pay our US colleagues fairly and equitably,” but it found a 14.5 percentage point pay gap in the U.K. and a 24.8 percentage point bonus gap.

SEC action—Two company challenges have emerged so far. Bank of America and Wells Fargo both are contending the resolution impermissibly consists of multiple proposals and relates to ordinary business by seeking to “micromanage” the company.

Gender, race and ethnicity: Zevin Asset Management is reprising its proposal to TJX that earned 26.2 percent last year. It asks for a report “on the Company’s policies and goals to identify and reduce inequities in compensation due to gender, race, or ethnicity within its workforce. Gender-, race-, or ethnicity-based inequities are defined as the difference, expressed as a percentage, between the earnings of each demographic group in comparable roles.”