Urban Outfitters shareholders again pass up push for diversity

Urban Outfitters shareholders recently voted against asking the company’s board to consider diversity when it chooses new members.

A “no” vote could still provide a push to the local company’s leadership. Right now, there are no women or minorities on the corporate board of Urban Outfitters, Inc.Analyst Courteney Keatinge with proxy advisory firm Glass-Lewis says that’s unusual. Glass Lewis provides its research and recommendations to institutional shareholders.  Keatinge says 91 percent of companies on the S&P 500 have at least one woman on the board — that number is even higher for companies in Urban Outfitters’ line of work. Numbers show board diversity is good for business, she said.”We want directors to have relevant experience. Clearly, because the company is in a youth retail business and two of their businesses — Free People and Anthropologie — are targeted exclusively at women, we believe that type of perspective … could be important to the board,” Keatinge said.This was the second year shareholders considered asking for more board diversity, but more people voted yes this time. While shareholder votes don’t have the force of law, companies often take them into consideration.Urban Outfitters has a history of getting in trouble for alleged insensitivity. The Navajo nation sued the company in February for allegedly marketing products as Navajo that have no link to the tribe’s trademark. Most recently, a shirt with a Jewish star patch was pulled from shelves.Keatinge says the impact of a more diverse board on these incidents is largely guesswork and did not figure into Glass-Lewis’ recommendation.  

An Urban Outfitters spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

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