Norway wealth fund to expand gender diversity work this year

By Victoria Klesty

OSLO, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Norway's $1.35 trillion wealth fund will step up its work on gender diversity on company boards this year and expand its focus beyond European and North American companies, a senior official at the fund told Reuters on Thursday.

The fund voted against 171 board candidates at annual general meetings last year due to lack of diversity, it said in its annual report on responsible investments, out Thursday.

Its policy is to have a minimum 30% of each gender represented on the board in the companies it invests in, or with a minimum of at least two members of each gender.

If a company does not, the fund votes against the re-election of the chair of the nomination committee.

The fund has already addressed the issue in the U.S. and Europe, targeting large- and mid-cap companies. But is now set to cast its net wider, said Carine Smith Ihenacho, the fund's chief governance and compliance officer.

"We extended it to smaller caps for this past season - this season we will also look at other markets such as Japan and see if we are going to make any changes there," she said.

Investing the state's revenues from oil and gas production and managed by a unit of Norway's central bank, the fund is one of the world's largest investors, investing its cash across 9,200 companies in 70 countries, among other assets. (Reporting by Victoria Klesty; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)