switzerlanden
Working towards greater gender equality

Working towards greater gender equality

08-03-2019 | Insight
Robeco has long believed that a gender-balanced workforce with more opportunities for women makes companies more successful. In this way, it forms part of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors – focusing on the ‘S’ and ‘G’ – that are integrated into our investment processes. Using active ownership is an important means of achieving this. To mark International Women’s Day on March 8, engagement analyst Laura Bosch Ferreté and Head of Active Ownership Carola van Lamoen detail the work that Robeco and RobecoSAM have done in this field.
  • Laura Bosch Ferreté
    Laura
    Bosch Ferreté
    Engagement analyst
  • Carola van Lamoen
    Carola
    van Lamoen
    Head of Active Ownership

Speed read

  • Engagement on gender diversity with RobecoSAM
  • Aimed at US companies in the financial and IT sectors
  • More gender-related shareholder resolutions are being filed

Robeco has been convinced for many years that sustainable corporate behavior can be enhanced by actively exercising our rights as stockowners through voting and engagement activities. These activities are undertaken by Robeco’s Active Ownership department and are aimed at improving the risk return profile of our investments while positively contributing to society.

We advocate for good governance and sustainable practices when casting our votes at shareholder meetings. Engagement entails a constructive and structured dialogue with investee companies to discuss how they manage ESG risks and seize business opportunities associated with sustainability challenges.

Research shows that a gender-balanced workforce positively supports corporate performance in relation to the company’s profitability, risk reduction or share price. A gender diverse workforce at all levels of the organization, with equal opportunities for all employees, supports business and financial performance while improving human capital management. This approach has been the cornerstone of the RobecoSAM Gender Equality Impact Equities fund since its inception in 2015.

Stay informed on our latest insights with monthly mail updates
Stay informed on our latest insights with monthly mail updates
Subscribe

Engagement program initiated

In 2017, an engagement program was initiated in collaboration with RobecoSAM that was framed around the guidelines used to determine the eligibility of companies in the Gender Equality Fund. The objectives of the engagement dialogue focus on increasing the disclosures related to gender diversity throughout the workforce, equal remuneration practices, disclosure of well-being programs and how gender diversity is approached at the board level. In the first one and a half years of this project, we engaged with US-based companies operating in the financial and information technology sectors.

During our engagement, we found that commitments put forward by the companies to enhance diversity were not always followed by concrete policies or robust disclosures. This insufficient disclosure was also the topic of a shareholder resolution filed at one of the companies under engagement requesting further disclose of its workforce breakdown.

Female workforce representation

As a result, the first objectives addressed during our engagement discussions were aimed at enhancing disclosures on both female workforce representation at different job levels and equal remuneration opportunities. We believe that addressing these topics would support our investee companies to better attract and retain talent while enhancing the value of their human capital.

Throughout our engagement discussions, guidance was provided in terms of specific disclosures that would be valuable for investors and other stakeholders. Companies responded positively to our engagement input and have taken it into account in their recommendations to management. We will continue to engage with these companies, following up regularly on our discussions and actively tracking their progress.

More women on boards

Gender diversity has become a very relevant topic in the international corporate governance arena. A Spencer Stuart survey found that in 2017, half of the incoming directors on S&P 500 boards were women or from minorities. Government intervention in this area has increased, as several countries such as India and France adopted legislative measures to promote gender diversity at board level through mandatory gender quotas.

In several markets, it is common to find director nominations to serve on the board included on the shareholder meeting’s agenda. Before casting our votes, a thorough assessment of the overall board diversity in terms of tenure, skills, gender and external commitments is conducted, and compared to local best practices. Our voting guidelines have recently been updated to reflect this assessment criteria.

Shareholder resolutions

In the last couple of years, an increasing amount of gender-related shareholder resolutions have been filed predominantly in the US. The content of these resolutions ranges from requesting companies to issue either a gender pay gap or employment diversity report to enhance diversity at the board level. Receiving on average 28% of votes in favor, it sends a clear signal to the company regarding the relevance of the topic for a large proportion of shareholders and creates an incentive to address the topic.

We firmly believe that enhanced disclosures on gender diversity within the workforce and remuneration opportunities would benefit shareholders, as failure to address these matters could present significant legal, reputational, and retention concerns for companies.

Logo

Important legal information

The content displayed on this website is exclusively directed at qualified investors, as defined in the swiss collective investment schemes act of 23 june 2006 ("cisa") and its implementing ordinance, or at “independent asset managers” which meet additional requirements as set out below. Qualified investors are in particular regulated financial intermediaries such as banks, securities dealers, fund management companies and asset managers of collective investment schemes and central banks, regulated insurance companies, public entities and retirement benefits institutions with professional treasury or companies with professional treasury.

The contents, however, are not intended for non-qualified investors. By clicking "I agree" below, you confirm and acknowledge that you act in your capacity as qualified investor pursuant to CISA or as an “independent asset manager” who meets the additional requirements set out hereafter. In the event that you are an "independent asset manager" who meets all the requirements set out in Art. 3 para. 2 let. c) CISA in conjunction with Art. 3 CISO, by clicking "I Agree" below you confirm that you will use the content of this website only for those of your clients which are qualified investors pursuant to CISA.

Representative in Switzerland of the foreign funds registered with the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority ("FINMA") for distribution in or from Switzerland to non-qualified investors is ACOLIN Fund Services AG, Affolternstrasse 56, 8050 Zürich, and the paying agent is UBS Switzerland AG, Bahnhofstrasse 45, 8001 Zürich. Please consult www.finma.ch for a list of FINMA registered funds.

Neither information nor any opinion expressed on the website constitutes a solicitation, an offer or a recommendation to buy, sell or dispose of any investment, to engage in any other transaction or to provide any investment advice or service. An investment in a Robeco/RobecoSAM AG product should only be made after reading the related legal documents such as management regulations, articles of association, prospectuses, key investor information documents and annual and semi-annual reports, which can be all be obtained free of charge at this website, at the registered seat of the representative in Switzerland, as well as at the Robeco/RobecoSAM AG offices in each country where Robeco has a presence. In respect of the funds distributed in Switzerland, the place of performance and jurisdiction is the registered office of the representative in Switzerland.

This website is not directed to any person in any jurisdiction where, by reason of that person's nationality, residence or otherwise, the publication or availability of this website is prohibited. Persons in respect of whom such prohibitions apply must not access this website.

I Disagree