Gender diverse companies, and investing in them, inch forwards

Reports this International Women's Day show slight shifting of the dial

Gender diversity at companies, and investment in those companies, are creeping up hand-in-hand, recent research shows.

MSCI’s Women on Boards Progress Report, which assessed the gender diversity among senior leadership of 2,800+ of the world’s largest companies over the past year, has found a 1.9% year-on-year increase of women on boards globally, up to 24.5% in 2022 from 22.6% in 2021.

A range of studies spanning 15 years have shown a connection between higher levels of women in leadership and higher return on equity, better profitability, lower incidences of fraud, and better risk management. The 30% Club has also this week found gender-balanced boards are more likely to push for improved company culture, with women on boards more likely than men to focus on employee development, and offer criticism and recommendations for improvement on both their own performance and their business activities.

“Against the backdrop of a challenging macro and geopolitical environment, it’s critical that companies harness the power of diverse talent at all levels of their organisation to succeed,” said 30% Club global chair Hanneke Smits.

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“Diversity must remain on the board agenda and there is genuine progress to ensure current, and future, executive leadership teams better represent the society we live in.”

Unsurprisingly, therefore, investment in those companies displaying better gender optics is also on the rise. Parallelle Finance found assets in public gender lens equity funds had reached $4.8bn at the end of last year, a slight increase from $4.1bn at the end of March 2022.

Eight new gender lens equity funds were also launched last year, bringing the total to 41. Gender bonds such as the first INR-denominated gender bond on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange, and the $50m Women’s Livelihood Bond 5 on the Singapore Stock Exchange, were also launched last quarter, perhaps playing a part in the issuance of sustainable bonds that employ a gender lens at Nordea, Bank of America and Banobras.