Pressure from shareholders in the midst of the #MeToo movement is causing companies to rethink their top-level lineup. Guess Inc., the clothing and apparel company, is no exception.
Guess announced this week that it is adding two women to the board as independent directors, taking the total number of independent directors to six. Laurie Ann Goldman, former ceo of undergarment company Spanx, and Deborah Weinswig, founder and ceo of the retail research firm Coresight Research, will serve on the board’s nominating and governance committee, with Goldman as its chairwoman.
The larger Guess board, comprised of both board members and independent directors, is made up of 15 people. The company also announced that Kay Isaacson-Leibowitz, a former Victoria’s Secret and Banana Republic exec, is retiring as a board member.
According to a statement released by the company, there are nine board members in the c-suite. With Isaacson-Leibowitz’s departure, zero women will occupy those positions.
“I don’t think they would have added a woman if there wasn’t a trend out there,” said Susan Anderson, managing director at financial firm B. Riley FBR. “A lot of these companies are being pressured to diversify.”
While the number of female board members is at its highest in nearly a decade, according to ISS Analytics, the data branch of Institutional Shareholder Services, so far this year, women only make up about a third of new board members at the 3,000 top publicly traded companies in the U.S.
Still, John Kernan, managing director at Cowen and Company, said Guess’s decision to add women to the board is “a great move.”
“It makes sense to have women on the board when your core customer is a woman,” he said. “It would be good to have some insight from women.”
The analyst pointed out that throughout the retail sector there is a noticeable lack of female board members. “Some boards don’t have any women,” Kernan said.
Guess would not respond to requests for comment.
The company has been busy trying to clean up its tainted image for some time.
In February, model actress Kate Upton accused Guess cofounder and chief executive officer Paul Marciano of sexual harassment. A special committee formed by the company resulted in Upton receiving about half a million dollars and Marciano stepping down as executive chairman over the summer. The cofounder remains on the board, but his brother, Maurice Marciano, was appointed chairman.
The Los Angeles-based company began as a single shop in 1981. Today, Guess has more than 1,000 retail locations in the Americas, Europe and Asia and is credited with creating the sexy, iconic Guess Girl.
The company’s second-quarter earnings on Aug. 29 showed a 14 percent increase of revenues to nearly $646 million. Third-quarter earnings are expected to be released near the end of November.