BlackRock CEO Fink says he is committed to gender diversity

NEW YORK (Reuters) - BlackRock Inc BLK.N Chief Executive Larry Fink on Wednesday said the largest asset manager must mirror its customers in terms of gender, comments that come as the company has become more vocal about shareholder and activist efforts to boost workplace diversity.

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“The reality is in the world more than 50 percent of household wealth is managed by women,” said Fink, who spoke at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York.

“And so if I’m going to be a mirror of my clients, we are going to need more women in our firm.”

BlackRock said this year that 39 percent of its employees are women, and that 43 percent of its total hires in 2016 and 29 percent of those brought on in senior leadership positions last year are women.

Investors have increasingly signaled a desire for their savings, including those managed by BlackRock and its rivals, to reflect their values. As a major shareholder in most public companies, BlackRock has also been pressured by activists to back shareholder-fronted propositions and vote against boards to prompt better corporate citizenship.

Fink has encouraged executives to adjust their behavior to focus on generating long-term value for shareholders, rather than simply meeting short-term profit targets.

Lack of diversity is among the top issues, but Fink said on Wednesday that BlackRock has also seen greater interest from investors in environmental, social and corporate governance issues as a result of the United States potentially leaving the landmark 2015 Paris climate pact.

Breaking with prior practice, BlackRock this year publicly disclosed opposition to practices at oil company Exxon Mobil Corp XOM.N, drugmaker Mylan NV MYL.O and other firms over climate change, compensation and other policies.

BlackRock voted for eight proposals pushing U.S. and Canadian companies to adopt policies to boost their boards’ diversity during the second quarter, the asset manager disclosed in July. It said a lack of diversity could hinder decision-making.

BlackRock’s board includes 17 members, four of whom are women.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Stephanie Kelly; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli