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Closing the Gender Gap in 200 Years isn’t Good Enough

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Stockholm (NordSIP) – At a recent event hosted by Kvinnokapital, a network of women in the asset management industry, Diana van Maasdijk told the story of Equileap.

Waiting 200 years, which is the current rate of change according to the World Economic Forum, to close the gender gaps in the economy (pay, participation, leadership) isn’t good enough, Diana van Maasdijk and her co-founders thought and so they started Equileap to speed up the process. The way to do that, they decided, “is to push financial capital with this focus”. Equileap, which is a registered non-profit organisation, “aims to make a difference, as well as a return, by accelerating gender equality in the workplace”, as they state on their webpage.

- Promotion -

According to van Maasdijk, a McKinsey report shows that “if we could close the gender gaps in the economy, it would add 28 trillion USD, or 26%, to global GDP by 2025”. She referred to several reports which have shown that companies with improving gender balance also improve financial results. “The opportunity now is to use the SDGs to speed up the process”, she says. To address the relevant SDGs Equileap researches companies to find out which ones are doing the best on gender equality. To measure this, they have developed their own gender equality scorecard with four categories and 19 criteria focusing on anything from pay differences, parental leave, sexual harassment to supplier diversity as well as commitment. The information is gathered from the companies’ annual reports, websites and social responsibility reports, gender audits carried out by independent audit firms, class action information et cetera.

By contacting the companies to tell them about the information Equileap will be looking for, it becomes the responsibility of the companies to publish the requested information, otherwise, they will get zero points in the specific criteria and their total score will be lowered. Equileap informs informs them that they can send the information directly if they do not think that it can be found or they want to make it public.

Targeted companies are those with a market cap of 2 billion USD or more listed in one of the 23 developed economies in the MSCI World index. This adds up to a little more than 3.500 companies. Each year Equileap publishes a report in which they have analysed all of these companies and given them a score. For 2018 the average top 200 company scored 53% out of 100% possible. The best company scored 71%. The average score for the 63 Swedish companies in the universe was 38% and for the 17 Norwegian ones, it was 40%. Swedish companies have low transparency on the areas of the pay gap, supplier diversity policy, anti-sexual harassment or flexible working hours.

Equileap offers data to asset managers and investors. As of today, van Maasdijk tells us, there are more than ten financial institutions around the world using the data, including Storebrand, Swedbank and Avanza, to design products. Some institutions contact Equileap to get a gender analysis of their portfolios based on the criteria. At Equileap they are happy to see that “Gender Lens Investing” is becoming popular. The definition of this varies from meaning just following the number of women on boards, to more specific data. As of today, Equileap knows of ca 600 MUSD being invested with the use of Equileap data. The data is also attracting more and more attention by media and is used for engagement and for measuring the footprint of portfolios.

As an example of what the financial cost might be for companies that have poor gender policies, van Maasdijk refers to an article published in the Economist on September 27, 2018, where they showed substantial falls in the market value of a number companies over the two-week period following confirmed allegations of sexual harassment.
Diana van Masdijk sees the main role of Equileap as that of influencing investors and helping those that want to include gender equality in their analysis and in their investment portfolios. Next step might be to start doing the same thing on ethnic diversity.

Picture © NordSIP

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