Increasing pressure is being applied to corporations to appoint women as members of their boards of directors, in part because the number of women on boards has not changed in recent years.

Calvert Asset Management Company Inc. and the state of Connecticut recently settled a discussion with Netflix when the entertainment company appointed its first woman to the board of directors.

At the same time, Pax World announced it withheld votes on 74 boards of director slates because the companies did not nominate any women directors.

"The number of women on boards of directors has been stagnating for several years, prompting more organizations and shareholders to pressure companies to expand their membership searches to include women and minorities," says Aditi Mohapatra, sustainability analyst for Calvert Asset Management Company Inc., which includes Calvert Investments.

Women made up 15% of the members of boards of directors in Fortune 500 companies in 2009, according to the Catalyst 2009 annual report.

Calvert started its push to get women and minorities on boards in 2002 and has filed resolutions with 51 companies asking that they amend their director selection language and process to stress the importance of looking for qualified women and minorities to be nominated. So far, 45 companies have done so.

"We are having success, but we felt the Netflix action was especially noteworthy because they changed their language for the search procedure and the next board member they appointed was a woman," Mohapatra says.  

Netflix appointed Ann Mathers, an entertainment industry veteran, to the board. The resolution was jointly filed by Calvert and the Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds, which invests $23 billion in funds.

In the other instance, Pax World Management LLC, investment adviser to Pax World Funds, which supports sustainable investing, withheld votes during the 2010 proxy season from 74 board of director slates because the companies did not nominate any women directors.

Pax World's guidelines stipulate it will withhold votes or vote against board slates that do not include women.

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