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 human right and a critical component of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Most people are familiar with SDG 5 on gender equality, but some may not realize that gender equality underpins more than half of the SDGs: 9 out of the 17 SDGs make gender-specific references.
Gender equality is also a driver of economic growth and enterprise development: progress towards gender equality is a core contributor to more economically prosperous and socially cohesive societies. Studies show that the loss in human capital wealth due to gender inequality is over $160 trillion*. Women’s participation in the economy contributes to economic growth and productivity. Conversely, restricting women’s opportunities can act as a drag on the economy, resulting in lower and/or slower economic growth.
Stock exchanges are uniquely positioned to influence their market in a way few other actors can. Exchanges play a central role in the economies in which they operate. Globally, exchanges list over 50,000 companies with a market capitalization of over $90 trillion. In many jurisdictions, the exchange defines, directly and indirectly, what is expected from the companies listed on its markets and the entities transacting through its markets. Policymakers, regulators, investors, and civil society are increasingly demanding greater action on gender equality. Exchanges are well-placed to meet this demand with an influence and a voice across the capital markets ecosystem.
SSE – IFC Gender Equality Database
of board seats on G20 listed companies held by women
Companies with higher levels of diversity at the executive level are found to show higher performance than their less diverse counterparts on both profitability and long-term value creation measures*. Besides, companies with more diverse boards and senior management teams demonstrate better environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance including having more ethical business practices, enhanced workplace policies, and stronger community relations*.
Gender equality on boards
Tracking the gender balance of issuer’s boards, along with other related data, provides a useful benchmark for exchanges and other key stakeholders to assess progress in promoting gender equality among listed companies.
A Gender Equality Action Plan for Exchanges
The action plan set out below summarises the main areas where exchanges can take action to contribute to greater gender equality. These cover both outward and inward-focused opportunities and are aligned with existing exchange initiatives and operations. In short, it builds on what exchanges are already doing. Each of these action points, together with illustrative examples, are explored in more detail in the SSE – IFC Report on How exchanges can advance gender equality: Updated guidance and best practice
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.
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.
How exchanges can advance gender equality – Updated guidance and best practice
In this joint report, UN SSE and IFC identify three broad areas where exchanges can play a role in advancing gender equality, namely the promotion of gender-focused and/or gender-aware products and services, strengthening of market performance on gender equality and leading by example. This guidance was developed in strategic collaboration with UN Women and benefited from the inputs of 71 experts across 34 countries. The guidance is an updated and expanded version of the guidance the Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) originally published in 2017.
The SSE guidance document on Gender Equality can be found here.
SSE, IFC and UN Women Pilot for Gender Equality Training
To further support exchange’s efforts in enhancing gender equality in their markets, the UN SSE is partnering with the IFC, UN Women, SSE Partner Exchanges and gender equality experts to provide markets with high-quality training on this topic. This training program is being developed with stock exchanges to ensure its relevance and utility for markets worldwide. The pilot program will be made available for staff members of SSE Partner Exchanges, regulatory authorities and our partner organizations. Stock exchanges and regulatory authorities interested in participating in the pilot training should contact the UN SSE initiative for more information.
After the pilot program, the UN SSE and IFC will roll out the training free of charge for markets globally, in collaboration with SSE Partner Exchanges. Stock exchanges will be invited to co-host the training and invite their market participants and key stakeholders to join and receive a CPD certification. Market participants that are interested in participating in this free training program should contact their local exchange to register their interest.
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
“.. IFC is pleased to contribute what we have learned to this guidance. I am grateful for our collaboration with the UN Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) initiative, the SSE Advisory Group on Gender Equality, and UN Women in producing such a rich compilation of examples. The result reflects our mutual resolve to share best practices to advance gender equality for economic growth, job creation, and sustainable development that benefits everyone.”
“UN Women is pleased to partner with the Sustainable Stock Exchanges initiative and the International Finance Corporation to update the guidance note for exchanges to advance gender equality. Building on its pioneer precedent of 2017, this updated edition of the note provides an expanded range of lessons, examples, and benchmarks from across the globe — all of which have made corporations not just more equal but also more financially sustainable.”
“With this new updated guidance on gender equality, the SSE continues in its tradition of providing exchanges with practical tools to make a difference in their market. As this report demonstrates, every exchange, regardless of where in the world it operates, can do something to promote gender equality and the achievement of the sustainable development goals.”
“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.”
“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”