Canada Stockwatch – Bell Canada, formally known as BCE Inc. (TSE:BCE, Mkt cap 45.84B, P/E 18.26, Div/yield 0.65/4.77, EPS 2.98, Shares 841.39M) is running the risk of enduring a PR nightmare after it told a shareholder-activist group it doesn’t “have a legal obligation to add more women” when asked to comment on a proposal by the activists to boost female representation from the 15% of directors it maintains today to a minimum of 40% by 2020.
As the Financial Post reports, the Montreal-based telecom giant has called for all shareholders to reject the demands for a quota, with BCE maintaining that females will occupy at least one-quarter of independent directorships by the end of 2017.
The proposal by a by a group of shareholders called the Mouvement d’éducation et de défense des actionnaires (Médac), a Montreal-based shareholder-activist group, asks BCE to go beyond its initial target and ensure its 13-strong board comprises at least three women.
As it stands, two of BCE’s board members are female: Sophie Brochu, of Quebec’s energy sector, and Carole Taylor, B.C.’s former minister of finance.
Bell spokeswoman Jacqueline Michelis told the FP via email that BCE’s current target is in line with that of many peer corporations in North America, as well as the Catalyst Accord call to boost the proportion of FP500 board seats held by women to 25% by 2017.
She added: “The target will be reviewed on a regular basis by the Governance Committee.”
Médac president Daniel Thouin said that the activist group was asked to remove the proposal by BCE, but it refused on the grounds that “their target was too low for us.”
“It’s just three places. It’s so low,” he added.
A decision on the proposal will come down to a vote at the annual meeting on April 30.
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