UN member States agreed on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be accomplished by 2030. The following target is directly addressed by this topic.
Target 5.5: Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life.
Gender equality is a top priority of the international sustainability agenda. Businesses are also improving their practices, developing public-private partnerships, and investing resources to achieve gender equality and long-term financial value. While it is increasingly recognizing that advancing gender equality through business operations and value chains means better talent, higher productivity, more customers, and a stronger bottom line, progress remains slow. To achieve the UN SDGs, the private sector needs to continue to advance at a fast pace.
Stock exchanges are uniquely positioned to influence their market in a way few other actors can. The Sustainable Stock Exchange (SSE) initiative of the United Nations helps stock exchanges build on this position by connecting them with companies, investors and policymakers to support sustainable development in capital markets. Stock exchanges around the world are invited to join the initiative by signing a public commitment to promote sustainable business practices.
Ring the Bell for Gender Equality
Every year, in celebration of International Women’s Day, the Sustainable Stock Exchange initiative supports “Ring the Bell” events to raise awareness of the pivotal role the private sector can play in advancing gender equality to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 5. Stock exchanges are uniquely positioned to influence their market in a way few other actors can.
Ring the Bell for Gender Equality events
In 2020 we had 95 exchanges planning “Ring the Bell” events of the 102 stock exchanges tracked by the SSE
The UN Sustainable Stock Exchanges initiative launched a report with GIZ, which highlights how exchanges can and are advancing UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality. It cites a number of imperative challenges:
- Women take home 1/10 of global income while accounting for 2/3 of global working hours;
- Girls and women have equal access to education in only 25 countries;
- 1/3 experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes;
- According to a 2016 review of 1,000 listed companies by Bloomberg LP, the average representation of women in the leadership was 23% in senior management; 21% on boards; 4% have a female chairperson; and 3% have a female CEO.
However, there is evidence of a business case:
- Female representation in leadership has shown to improve performance metrics such as ROA, ROE, and EPS while reducing volatility;
- Family leave can boost employee morale, reducing turnover and making it easier for businesses to retain skilled workers
- If better served, women-owned small businesses could add around $285 billion to the global economy
- The global economy could be up to $28 trillion larger in 2025 if gender gaps were eliminated.
Pioneering Financial Products
Advancements in this space include the pioneering of new financial products aimed at supporting the empowerment of women and gender equality in corporate leadership. Some examples of these products include:
- Global Gender Equality UCITS ETF, investing in the Solactive Equileap Global Gender Equality 100 Leaders index
- The World Bank priced a C$1 billion sustainable development bond aimed at raising awareness around empowering women and girls on 9 January 2018 (Source: Bloomberg)
- QBE Insurance Group “Gender Equality Bond” (Source: Reuters)
- Bloomberg Gender Equality Index (GEI). Over 300 companies from eleven sectors headquartered in 42 countries and regions are included in the 2020 GEI. The reference index measures gender equality across internal company statistics, employee policies, external community support and engagement, and gender-conscious product offerings. For more information on the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index, please click here.
- FTSE Women on Boards Leadership Index Series. An index sereis designed to integrate leadership in gender diversity and social impact into a board market benchmark
- Impact Shares YWCA Women’s Empowerment ETF (WOMN), trading on NYSE, tracking the rules-based Morningstar Women’s Empowerment Index.
- Women’s Livelihood Bond Series (WLB Series) helps women access affordable credit, micro savings and insurance, agricultural inputs, as well as clean and affordable energy.
- IIX Women’s Livelihood Bond, listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX)
- IDB Invest has structured and subscribed a Gender-focused Social Bond issue by Banco Davivienda SA (Davivienda). This is the world’s first issue of a gender-linked bond based on achieving outcomes.
SSE guidance on advancing gender equality
Building on the 2016 SSE Report on Progress, which highlights five specific targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that exchanges are well placed to influence, this report examines the contribution exchanges can make toward SDG target 5.5: ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic, and public life, as well as the gender-specific targets under the other 16 SDGs.
The SSE guidance document on Gender Equality and other publications by the SSE can be found here.
Technical Assistance: The SSE works with stock exchanges to advance gender equality in their markets through donor-sponsored technical assistance. For more information, please contact the SSE team directly
“The stock exchange can play a key role in promoting women’s economic empowerment in the private sector through addressing gender equality in listed companies, and ensuring enhanced access to finance for women entrepreneurs.“
“It was time to join our forces and come together to emphasize our commitment to gender equality and sustainable development in the finance industry also in our Nordic-Baltic region. Nordic countries are often seen as global front-runners in advancing equality, but there is still more to do. We need more actions and openness to improve diversity in top management and transparency on gender policies, practices and attitudes”
“We will work with various market players to ensure highest levels of gender parity are upheld in line with our commitment to the Women Empowerment Principles.”