Pre-pandemic it was bias and glass ceilings; now pandemic-induced exhaustion, burnout and unemployment present additional obstacles hindering women workers.
The burdens and biases working women face have intensified, but so too have their contributions to business and society. The world needs companies that are combatting long-standing sources of bias in business but also are stepping up efforts to confront the new forces that are inhibiting female advancement and reducing workforce diversity.
The pandemic has been a formidable force that has laid bare the struggles of women to successfully manage the demands of professional work and personal life. Yet pre-pandemic, women were already suffering under the force of systematic workplace bias that left them worse off in terms of pay and promotion. A recent survey found that 85% of both men and women agreed it was easier for men to reach top leadership positions than equally qualified women – opinions that have been confirmed in the data.1
In the US and many developed countries, women comprise half of the total workforce yet are grossly under-represented in management and leadership positions. A recent study of critical US industries found women held only a quarter of total C-suite positions and just 6% of CEO posts.2
A plethora of workforce studies point to biases that obstruct female advancement. Unspoken preconceptions include a tendency to think women prioritize family over career as well as the perception that men make more effective leaders. Global statistics show a similar pattern.
In addition to the high cost of bias, the pandemic has also had a disproportionately damaging toll on women. Globally, women suffered a 5% loss in employment compared with 3% for men.3 In Europe, wage losses over the pandemic were 8.1% for women compared to 5.4% for men.4 As the pandemic wears on, the gap in burnout levels between women and men have doubled.5 In the US, if unemployment figures counted the nearly two million women who have left the labor force since February 2020, the women's unemployment rate would have been 6.8% at the end of September 2021.6
Though employment has since rebounded, it hasn’t been enough to compensate for gender losses over the long-haul. Based on estimates from the World Economic Forum, the gender gap grew by 36 years – more than a generation.7
The benefits of attracting, retaining and promoting women across labor markets are manifold. Women gain purpose and empowerment for themselves and income and stability for their families. At the macro level, studies show closing the gender gap in labor force participation adds to national GDP – as much as 80% in some cases.8 Globally, McKinsey projected that advancing gender equality could increase GDP by USD 13 trillion through 2030.9
The benefits accrue to business too. Gender diverse companies that actively pursue diversity in policy and practice are linked to lower levels of employee turnover and higher levels of employee satisfaction and commitment.10,11 In addition to social metrics, companies with women in leadership achieve better financial metrics including higher earnings (EBIT), higher returns on equity (ROE), and higher stock prices.12 And the more pervasive diversity is within an organization, the stronger the relationship with financial performance.13
In addition to social metrics, companies with women in leadership achieve better financial metrics including higher earnings (EBIT), higher returns on equity (ROE), and higher stock prices
Moreover, women at the top are helping protect both internal company climates as well as external atmospheric ones. A McKinsey study conducted during the pandemic found that women managers displayed more concern for the well-being of subordinates compared to male managers at the same level.14 And a Bloomberg New Energy Finance analysis of more than 11,700 companies, demonstrated a positive correlation between a critical mass of women on the board and climate governance and innovation.15
Gains across socioeconomic and environmental spheres have made retaining and advancing working women a strategic imperative for many countries and companies. Likewise, increased inflows into gender-focused investments mean it is increasingly a critical focus of investors. Gender lens investing (GLI) portfolios base investments on specific gender-advancing criteria such as equal pay, representation ratios, retention rates and flexible work policies. GLI assets have grown nearly five-fold since 2018, reaching nearly USD 12 billion in 2021.16,17
Increased inflows into gender-focused investments mean it is increasingly a critical focus of investors
“Evidence shows females bring more innovation, more creativity, more thoughtful decision-making all of which combine to improve bottom line results” says Audrey Kaplan, co-portfolio manager of Robeco’s GLI strategy. “For our own investments, we consider diversity of staff amongst a universe of other diversity and inclusion factors when selecting companies for investment.”
The benefits of having diversity and inclusion (D&I) in a company’s DNA have made it a key focus of Robeco’s active ownership team. This year marks the launch of the team’s dedicated D&I engagement program which builds on prior work in the area. The program will press company management for progress on equal rights and opportunities for all employees, with particular focus on female participation in senior management and boards.
Though government regulations and policies will always be important, these are just a few ways investors can also contribute to breaking old biases and building back better for a new generation of workers.
1 “Women in Leadership, why it matters.” US-based survey by the Rockefeller Foundation. https://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/Women-in-Leadership-Why-It-Matters.pdf
2 “Women C-Suite Ranks Nudge Up—a Tad.” (2019). A Korn Ferry Management Consulting survey of US industries including consumer goods, retail, energy, financials, healthcare, services and IT.
3 “Women at Work in G20 countries: Policy action since 2020.” OECD/ILO. Revised June 2021.
4 ILO Global Wage Report 2020-21.
5 Women in the Workplace Report. 2021. McKinsey and Co. / Lean In Org. Burnout levels measured between 2020 and 2021 surveys.
6 National Women’s Law Center (US), September 2021 Fact Sheet. https://nwlc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Aug-Jobs-Day.pdf
7 World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report. 2021.
8 Boston Consulting Group. Gender Equality. Infographic. https://www.bcg.com/capabilities/diversity-inclusion/gender-equality
9 COVID-19 and gender equality: Countering the regressive effects. 2020. McKinsey and Co.
10 Catalyst.org., Organization Studies (2019). “Not Just Good for Her: A Temporal Analysis of the Dynamic Relationship Between Representation of Women and Collective Employee Turnover.”
11 Catalyst. Academic research demonstrating inclusive workplaces maximize talent and productivity. https://www.catalyst.org/research/why-diversity-and-inclusion-matter/. Accessed February 2021.
12 “Gender Diversity improves ROE, lowers risk.” (2018). Bank of America/Merrill Lynch Research. Morgan Stanley Research, 2019. Credit Suisse 3000 Report (2021).
13 Credit Suisse 3000 Report (2021). RobecoSAM Gender Research report, 2020. https://www.robeco.com/en/insights/2020/04/how-a-better-gender-balance-boosts-profits.htmlrobecosam study link)
14 Women in the Workplace Report. 2021. McKinsey and Co. / Lean In Org.
15 “More Women in Boardrooms Mean Better Climate Policy, BNEF Says.” December 2020. Bloomberg Green.
16 As per 30 September 2021.
17 “Gender Lens Investing in the Numbers.” https://www.gendersmartinvesting.com/gender-lens-investing-in-numbers. Last accessed February 2022. Citing Parallelle, Veris Wealth Partners, and P&I/Crain Investments research. Veris Wealth Report. “Bending the Arc of Finance for women and girls.” 2018: GLI AUM 2.4 billion as of Dec 2018.
This information is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as an offer to sell or an invitation to buy any securities or products, nor as investment advice or recommendation.
The contents of this document have not been reviewed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (“MAS”). Robeco Singapore Private Limited holds a capital markets services license for fund management issued by the MAS and is subject to certain clientele restrictions under such license.
An investment will involve a high degree of risk, and you should consider carefully whether an investment is suitable for you.
Warning/Important note: This website contains information which is only available to qualified investors as defined below. If you are not a qualified investor, please click “I Disagree” to leave the website.
By clicking on "I agree", I declare that:
1 - This website may only be accessed directly or indirectly by the following persons in Singapore:
1) “institutional investor” under section 304 of the Securities and Futures Act (Cap.289)(“SFA”), which means:
(i) the Government; (ii) a statutory board as may be prescribed by regulations made under section 341 of the SFA; (iii) an entity that is wholly and beneficially owned, whether directly or indirectly, by a central government of a country and whose principal activity is (A) to manage its own funds; (B) to manage the funds of the central government of that country (which may include the reserves of that central government and any pension or provident fund of that country); or (C) to manage the funds (which may include the reserves of that central government and any pension or provident fund of that country) of another entity that is wholly and beneficially owned, whether directly or indirectly, by the central government of that country; (iv) any entity (A) that is wholly and beneficially owned, whether directly or indirectly, by the central government of a country; and (B) whose funds are managed by an entity mentioned in sub-paragraph (iii); (v) a central bank in a jurisdiction other than Singapore; (vi) a central government in a country other than Singapore; (vii) an agency (of a central government in a country other than Singapore) that is incorporated or established in a country other than Singapore; (viii) a multilateral agency, international organisation or supranational agency as may be prescribed by regulations made under section 341 of the SFA; (ix) a bank that is licensed under the Banking Act (Cap.19); (x) a merchant bank that is approved as a financial institution under section 28 of the Monetary Authority of Singapore Act (Cap.186); (xi) a finance company that is licensed under the Finance Companies Act (Cap.108); (xii) a company or co-operative society that is licensed under the Insurance Act (Cap.142) to carry on insurance business in Singapore; (xiii) a company licensed under the Trust Companies Act (Cap.336); (xiv) a holder of a capital markets services licence; (xv) an approved exchange; (xvi) a recognised market operator; (xvii) an approved clearing house; (xviii) a recognised clearing house; (xix) a licensed trade repository; (xx) a licensed foreign trade repository; (xxi) an approved holding company; (xxii) a Depository as defined in section 81SF of the SFA; (xxiii) an entity or a trust formed or incorporated in a jurisdiction other than Singapore, which is regulated for the carrying on of any financial activity in that jurisdiction by a public authority of that jurisdiction that exercises a function that corresponds to a regulatory function of the Authority under this Act, the Banking Act (Cap.19), the Finance Companies Act (Cap.108), the Monetary Authority of Singapore Act (Cap.186), the Insurance Act (Cap.142), the Trust Companies Act (Cap.336) or such other Act as may be prescribed by regulations made under section 341 of the SFA; (xxiv) a pension fund, or collective investment scheme, whether constituted in Singapore or elsewhere; (xxv) a person (other than an individual) who carries on the business of dealing in bonds with accredited investors or expert investors; (xxvi) the trustee of such trust as the Authority may prescribe, when acting in that capacity; or; (xxvii) such other person as the Authority may prescribe.
2) “relevant person” under section 305(1) of the SFA, which means:
(i) An accredited investor; (ii) a corporation the sole business of which is to hold investments and the entire share capital of which is owned by one or more individuals, each of whom is an accredited investor; (iii) a trustee of a trust the sole purpose of which is to hold investments and each beneficiary of which is an individual who is an accredited investor; (iv) an officer or equivalent person of the person making the offer (such person being an entity) or a spouse, parent, brother, sister, son or daughter of that officer or equivalent person; or (v) a spouse, parent, brother, sister, son or daughter of the person making the offer (such person being an individual).
3) any person who acquires the units [in a collective investment scheme] as principal if the offer is on terms that the units may only be required at a consideration of not less than $200,000 (or its equivalent in a foreign currency) for each transaction, whether such amount is to be paid for in cash or by exchange of units in a collective investment scheme, securities, securities-based derivatives contracts or other assets, and if the following condition is satisfied: (i) the offer is not accompanied by an advertisement making an offer or calling attention to the offer or intended offer; (ii) no selling or promotional expenses are paid or incurred in connection with the offer other than those incurred for administrative or professional services, or by way of commission or fee for services rendered by any of the persons specified in section 302B(1)(d)(i) to (vi) of the SFA; and (iii) no prospectus in respect of the offer has been registered by the Authority or, where a prospectus has been registered (A) the prospectus has eAccxpired pursuant to section 299 of the SFA; or (B) the person making the offer has before making the offer 1. informed the Authority by notice in writing of its intent to make the offer in reliance on the exemption under this subsection; and 2. taken reasonable steps to inform in writing the person to whom the offer is made that the offer is made in reliance on the exemption under this subsection.
4) Or otherwise pursuant to, and in accordance with the conditions of, any other applicable provision of the SFA.
If you are not any of the types of persons described above, you are not authorized to enter this website and you should leave this website immediately.
2 Terms and Conditions
You acknowledge that you have read these Terms and Conditions (“Terms”) prior to accessing the website located at www.robeco.com/sg (“Website”) and you agree to be bound by the Terms. If you do not agree to all of the Terms, you are not an authorised user and you should not use the Website. The Website is owned by Robeco Singapore Private Limited (company registration number: UEN. 201541306Z), which is licensed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (“MAS”) pursuant to the Securities and Futures Act (Cap.289) (“SFA”) of Singapore, and is managed by Robeco Singapore Private Limited and/or its affiliates (collectively, as “Robeco”). The Website is intended for and should be accessed by institutional investors or accredited investors (as defined under Section 4A of the SFA) of Singapore. The Website is not directed to, or intended for distribution to or use by, any person or entity who is a citizen or resident of or located in any locality, state, country or other jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, availability or use would be contrary to law or regulation or which would subject the Robeco to any registration or licensing requirement within such jurisdiction. It is your responsibility to observe all applicable laws, rules and regulations of any relevant jurisdiction. The content contained in the Website is owned by Robeco and/or its information providers and is protected by applicable copyrights, trademarks, service marks, and/or other intellectual property rights. You may not copy, distribute, modify, post, frame or link the Website, including any text, graphics, video, audio, software code, user interface, design or logos. You may not distribute, modify, transmit, reuse, repost, or use the content of the Website for public or commercial use, including all text, images, audio and/or video. Robeco may terminate your access to the Website for any reason, without prior notice. Neither Robeco, nor any of its associates, nor any director, officer or employee accepts any liability whatsoever for any loss arising directly or indirectly from the access of the Website. You agree to indemnity and hold Robeco, its associates, directors, officers or employees harmless against any and all claims, losses, liability, costs and expenses arising from your use of the Website due to violation of the Terms. Robeco reserves the right to change, modify, add or remove any parts of the Terms at any time and for any reason. The Terms shall deemed to be effective immediately upon posting. The Terms shall be governed by, and shall be construed in accordance with, the law of Singapore.
The Website has not been reviewed by the MAS. Accordingly, the Website may not be accessed directly or indirectly to persons in Singapore other than (i) to an institutional investor under Section 304 of the SFA, (ii) to a relevant person pursuant to Section 305(1), or any person pursuant to Section 305(2), and in accordance with the conditions specified in Section 305, of the SFA, or (iii) otherwise pursuant to, and in accordance with the conditions of, any other applicable provision of the SFA.
Nothing in the Website constitutes tax, accounting, regulatory, legal or investment advice. The Website is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as an offer to sell or an invitation to buy any securities or products, nor as investment advice or recommendation or for the purpose of soliciting any action in relation to Robeco’s businesses, or solicitation by anyone in any jurisdiction in which such an offer or solicitation is not authorised or to any person to whom it is unlawful to make such an offer and solicitation. Any reproduction or distribution of information from the Website, in whole or in part, or the disclosure of its contents, without the prior written consent of Robeco, is prohibited. By accessing to the Website, you agree to the foregoing.
The funds referred to in the Website are for information only. It is not a recommendation or investment advice, nor does it mean the funds is suitable for all investors. The contents of the website is not reviewed by the MAS. Any decision to participate in the funds should be made only after reviewing the sections regarding investment considerations, conflicts of interest, risk factors and the relevant Singapore selling restrictions. You should consult your professional adviser if you are in doubt about the stringent restrictions applicable to the use of the Website, regulatory status of the funds, applicable regulatory protection, associated risks and suitability of the funds to your objectives.
Any decisions made based on the information contained in the Website are the sole responsibility of yours. Any investments made or to be made shall be with your independent analyses based on your financial situation and objectives. The investments and strategies contained in the Website may not be suitable for all investors and are not guaranteed by Robeco.
Investment involves risks and may lose value. Historical returns are provided for illustrative purposes only and do not necessarily reflect Robeco’s expectations for the future. The value of your investments may fluctuate. Past performance is no indication of current or future performance. The Website may contain projections or other forward looking statements regarding future events or future financial performance of countries, markets or companies and such projection or forecast is not indicative of the future. The information contained in the Website, including any data, projections and underlying assumptions are based upon certain assumptions, management forecasts and analysis of information available on an “as is” basis and without warranties of any kind, whether express or implied, and reflects prevailing conditions and Robeco’s views as of the date published or indicated, and maybe superseded by subsequent events or for other reasons. The information contained in the Website are accordingly subject to change at any time without notice and Robeco are under no obligation to notify you of any of these changes. Robeco expressly disclaims all liability for errors and omissions in the information presented in the Website and for the use or interpretation by others of information contained in the Website.
Robeco Singapore Private Limited holds a capital markets services licence for fund management issued by the MAS and is subject to certain clientele restrictions under such licence. An investment will involve a high degree of risk, and you should consider carefully whether an investment is suitable for you.