Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Emma Hinchliffe here today. Slovakia elects its first female president, we dig into the Joe Biden story, and State Street’s gender lens investing fund hasn’t held up the standards of its own Fearless Girl. Have a vigilant April Fools’ Day!
• Fearless Girl; not-so-fearless voting. You might have heard about the disconnect between Wall Street’s Fearless Girl and its corporate backer, State Street Global Advisors, before. State Street settled claims that it underpaid women working at the firm two years ago.
Now new research from Morningstar shows another discrepancy. State Street’s Gender Diversity Index ETF, the fund within the firm specifically devoted to issues of gender diversity, failed to vote in favor of eight out of 10 shareholder resolutions on gender diversity that it faced between 2015 and 2018.
That’s right; even at the State Street entity whose entire mission is devoted to investing in companies that have women in their senior leadership ranks, this problem persists. (State Street says looking at shareholder resolutions “does not tell the whole story” of how the firm approaches this issue.)
Some of the resolutions State Street’s fund, known as SHE, voted against: an annual report on the gender pay gap at Aetna, a gender pay equity disclosure at American Express, and the inclusion of diversity as a CEO performance metric at TJX Companies, the corporation behind TJ Maxx and Marshalls.
Morningstar researcher Madison Sargis attributed some of this seeming hypocrisy to State Street’s tendency to consider voting action a “last resort;” it prefers to engage with companies directly. But two other gender lens investing funds she studied didn’t have trouble reflecting their missions in their voting records. At the Glenmede’s Women in Leadership Portfolio, for example, the fund voted in favor of all 14 resolutions on gender diversity it faced, even though the rest of the firm voted against those kinds of resolutions more than half the time.
Unlike Glenmede, State Street didn’t seem to adjust its voting approach to account for its gender lens investing fund’s mission. State Street’s signature cause with its Fearless Girl campaign is getting more women on boards of directors, and the fund did vote in favor of the one resolution it faced on that issue—to require diverse candidates for new director nominees at Discovery Inc.
But as Sargis told me, voting against initiatives related to topics like pay equity hurts the push for board diversity: Where are you going to find diverse candidates for boards if those potential directors have been underpaid throughout their careers and, perhaps, choose to step back from the workforce?
Sargis often looks at highly specific, fascinating issues. I also covered her finding that improved statistics on board diversity could be due to a small group of women gaining second and third directorships, rather than more women joining the ranks of corporate leadership.
This time around, she found a serious discrepancy between State Street’s gender diversity focused Fearless Girl campaign—which just expanded to London!—and the firm’s fund that’s devoted to the same issue. Emma Hinchliffe @_emmahinchliffe firstname.lastname@example.org
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ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• Breaking down the Biden story. Lucy Flores, the 2014 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in Nevada, wrote for The Cut about an interaction she had with then-Vice President Joe Biden that left her feeling unsettled, demeaned, and uncomfortable. While out to support Flores on the campaign trail, Biden came up behind her, smelled her hair, and kissed the back of her head. “Even if his behavior wasn’t violent or sexual, it was demeaning and disrespectful. I wasn’t attending the rally as his mentee or even his friend; I was there as the most qualified person for the job,” she wrote. Biden responded in a statement Sunday, as rumors swirl about whether he will enter the 2020 field, saying that “never did I believe I acted inappropriately.” Rebecca Traister weighed in, arguing that “Biden is not the answer” for Democrats in 2020, with part of her piece outlining his anti-abortion record.
• Madam Prezident. Slovakia elected its first female president on Saturday, with Zuzana Čaputová winning a runoff election. An environmental lawyer, anti-corruption activist, and government critic who ran on the campaign slogan “Stand up to evil,” Čaputová and her election mark a turn toward progressivism amid rightwing populism in central Europe. The Guardian
• Fargo and fundraising. The news that Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s finance director was resigning from her presidential campaign put a spotlight on Warren’s fundraising record. She’s trailing other 2020 candidates as a result of her decision to eschew all big-dollar donations—a decision that led her finance director, Michael Pratt, to resign. New York Times
• Stepping down. Some changes in Trump Administration appointments over the last few days: Linda McMahon stepped down as head of the Small Business Administration to chair the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action. She’d been a rumored contender to become the next Commerce Secretary, so this move takes her out of the running for that job, Politico reports. Also, Jessie K. Liu withdrew from consideration for associate attorney general, the No. 3 job at the Justice Department. The Senate Judiciary Committee objected to her nomination on the grounds that she wasn’t conservative enough.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Barclays hired Kristin DeClark as co-head of its U.S. ECM practice and as global head of technology ECM. Variety named Lesley McKenzie managing editor. Mastercard EVP Susan Grossman joins the Americares board of directors.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• Plane crash. One of Russia’s richest women Natalia Fileva, co-owner of S7 or Siberian Airlines, died in a plane crash near Frankfurt on Sunday along with two others. The 55-year-old is married to S7 CEO Vladislav Filev and has an estimated net worth of $600 million. Guardian
• Heartbeat bill backlash. Georgia lawmakers passed an anti-abortion “heartbeat bill” on Friday, limiting abortion to only the first six weeks of pregnancy—before some women know they are pregnant. In response, actors Alyssa Milano and June Diane Raphael are spearheading a movement to boycott filming in Georgia—a serious threat to the $2.7 billion spent by the industry in the state last year. The Hollywood Reporter
• The second Spiegel. Caroline Spiegel, the college senior and 22-year-old sister of Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, is launching her first startup. Quinn will be a visuals-free audio and written porn site geared toward women. Spiegel describes it as “a much less gross, more fun Pornhub for women.” TechCrunch
• Keeping up. The New York Times’ Amy Chozick has a long profile of the Kardashians, covering a lot of territory. Kim says she wouldn’t consider running for office; Kendall comments on her role in Fyre Fest for the first time; and Kylie displays some self-awareness on the question of whether or not she’s a self-made billionaire. “If they’re just talking finances, technically, yes, I don’t have any inherited money. But I have had a lot of help and a huge platform,” she says of the distinction. New York Times
ON MY RADAR
Abigail Disney on what it’s like to grow up with more money than you’ll ever spend The Cut
A judge ruled requiring girls to wear skirts at school violates the Constitution BuzzFeed
Robin Arzón’s Peloton work diary: ‘It feels like I ingested fire’ New York Times
‘In Afghanistan, we laugh differently’: The girls’ robotics team is back home New York Times
QUOTELife is short, the ephemeral is everywhere, so we go on making art. Agnès Varda, the French New Wave filmmaker. Varda died at 90 on Friday.