The issue takes center stage each year on 8 March, when International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world. The day has been commemorated since 1909 – before many women got the vote in Western democracies. This year’s theme is ‘Each for Equal’.
Robeco’s Active Ownership team regularly votes and engages on the issue to support more women on corporate boards, remove gender pay gaps and improve workplace opportunities for women. For investments, the RobecoSAM Global Gender Equality Impact Equities fund invests in companies with a high degree of gender equality, combined with strong business fundamentals, with the aim of achieving attractive social and financial returns
“We have different fronts in which we work to address gender diversity,” says engagement specialist Laura Bosch Ferreté. “We have an engagement program in which we speak to several companies about how they manage their human capital and, more precisely, how they promote gender equality throughout their workforce.”
“We are becoming more stringent in our voting, both in developed and emerging markets. We’ve strengthened our approach to diversity on boards, moving beyond only adhering to legal requirements. In markets where there is no regulation, we will refrain from supporting the election of directors if the board has not made reasonable progress towards gender diversity according to local standards.”
Why do we do it? “Gender equality is an indication of a well-managed company that is fully utilizing its talent and human assets to make better decisions that lead to better results,” says Junwei Hafner-Cai, portfolio manager of the Gender Equality fund.
“There is a lot of research that shows it makes financial sense for a company to embrace diversity, not only from the gender angle, but also with respect to racial diversity,” adds engagement specialist Daniëlle Essink. “There is strong evidence that this makes total business sense.”
Robeco’s Active Ownership team also tackles the issues of gender pay gaps, impediments to equality such as childcare provision, and has a focused approach in emerging markets. Robeco also strives to ensure that its own workplace culture embodies gender equality, so that we can practice what we preach.