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Urban Outfitters Pressured to Diversify Board Membership

(TriceEdneyWire.com) - Urban Outfitters CEO Stephen Murray stepped down May 13, just eight days after coming under fire from two shareholders for a lack of diversity on its all-White male board.

Two shareholders in the clothing company—Maryland-based Calvert Investment Management, Inc. and Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds—May 5 proposed a resolution demanding that the company add women and minorities to its boardroom leadership.

According to a proxy statement by the two groups, Philadelphia-based Urban Outfitters has nominated three additional White men to its board of directors, which already includes four other White males.
In press releases, Calvert and Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds, a state-run group of several small pension and trust funds, asserted that the retailer’s five direct competitors—The Gap, Inc., Limited Brands, Inc., Nordstrom, Inc., Ross Stores, Inc., and Abercrombie & Fitch Company—each have at least one woman or minority on their board.

“We believe that diversity is an essential measure of sound governance and a critical attribute to a well-functioning board,” the shareholders said in the proxy statement. “We believe that in an increasingly complex global marketplace, the ability to draw on a wide range of viewpoints, backgrounds, skills, and experience is critical to a company’s success, as it increases the likelihood of making the right strategic and operational decisions and catalyzes efforts to recruit, retain, and promote the best people, including women and minorities.”

The company’s investors will vote on the declaration during an annual meeting May 17 in Philadelphia.

Urban Outfitters executives oppose the resolution, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal, but the company did not respond to the AFRO’s calls for comment. Murray stepped down May 13, saying he wanted to return to London “to pursue an opportunity with a wholesale business having an international focus,” the company said in a release.

Janice Ellig, corporate board advisor and co-CEO of a New York executive search firm, said many Fortune 500 companies establish quotas to ensure board diversity.

The retailer’s brands include Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People, BHLDN, Leifdottir and Terrain.

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