Activist investors’ unintentional war on women


Activist investors are calling for change. Office Depot [fortune-stock symbol=”ODP”] and Hess [fortune-stock symbol=”HES”] are just two on the list of Fortune 500 companies that recently heeded activist demands to recruit board members with industry-specific experience. Those sorts of appointees, say firms like Starboard Value, are more equipped to deal with competition.

But there’s one possible loser in this setup: women. By placing these sorts of restrictions on future directors’ resumes, activist investors are shrinking the pool of attractive female board candidates.

“A woman could meet every one of the tests to get on the board, but now, if they don’t come out of the same or similar industry vertical, many times the activist will say, ‘She looks great, but she doesn’t have the right experience,’” says Dennis Carey, a vice chairman at executive recruiting firm Korn/Ferry International. “Historically, before all this activist pressure, she probably would have gotten…

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