By many metrics, TJX Cos. looks like a beacon of diversity—more than three-quarters of employees are women, people of color make up more than half the workforce, and the retail company is considered a top employer for gay people and for people with disabilities. 

Yet, with the shift of former CEO Carol Meyrowitz to executive chairman last year, all of the top executives at the parent company of TJ Maxx and other retail brands are white men. That's not acceptable, says shareholder NorthStar Asset Management, which is asking the board to make part of current CEO Ernie Herrman's compensation contingent on diversifying his top corporate officers.

"TJX's primary customer base is likely represented by the store workers and the store management, rather than what you see in the C-suite," NorthStar CEO Julie Goodridge said in an interview. "As management gets further and further away from their customer base, that's when they start making stupid decisions around merchandising, and that's something we're concerned about." Like many investors that take up social issues with public companies, NorthStar is small by assets —the all-female firm has just $300 million under management—but it has successfully extracted some concessions. A handful of target companies, including CVS, IBM and Costco agreed this year to add language to value diversity at the board of directors level after discussions with NorthStar, Goodridge said. 

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