Glencore International, the world's biggest commodities trader, finally ended its rather embarrassing status as the only FTSE-100 company without a female director with the appointment Thursday of Canada's Patrice Merrin, who has had careers at the Canadian mining companies Luscar and Sherritt International.
Ms. Merrin, who is 65, is to become an independent, non-executive director at the company that owns Canada's Falconbridge and grain handler Viterra.
Ms. Merrin's appointment was a long time coming. For years, Glencore had been under enormous political pressure to relinquish its status as a bastion of all-male boards. Earlier this year, when copper miner Antofagasta appointed a woman director, Glencore became the only blue-chip, London-listed company without a woman on its board.
Vince Cable, the business secretary in the coalition government of prime minister David Cameron, called her appointment an "historic day for the FTSE" but said that Corporate Britain still lacked diversity. "The last appointment has been long in the making but I congratulate Glencore today on hiring their first woman non-executive director," he said.
Glencore had apparently been sizing up women candidates for a while. At its annual meeting in Switzerland in May, the company said intended to appoint a woman director by the end of the year. Glencore's South African CEO, Ivan Glasenberg, tried earlier this year to recruit Alison Watkins, the former CEO of Australian grain trader Graincorp. But Ms. Watkins, who is now CEO of Coca-Cola Amatil, was not able to take the role.
It appears that Glencore was never against the idea of women directors. He just insisted that any director must have a thorough understanding of the industry.
Ms. Merrin herself would agree. Last year, she said that appointing the best candidates regardless of gender should be the priority. "Trying to make intellectual arguments for getting women on boards is a time waster," she said in a Globe and Mail article. "The wealth that resides in public markets is so important and we want the best possible governance. I don't think that deriving people from a very small, closed pool is the best way."
Ms. Merrin has had a long and varied careers in resources and health care. A graduate of Queen's University and INSEAD, the international management school in France, she was CEO of Luscar, Canada's biggest producer of thermal coal, in 2005 and 2006 and was Sherritt's chief operating officer between 1999 and 2004.
In recent years, she has also been chairman of CML Healthcare, and a director of NB Power and Enssolutions. She was also director of Alberta's Climate Change and Emissions Management Corp. and Ornge Transport Medicine. Currently, she is a director of Stillwater Mining, the only U.S. producer of palladium and platinum.