Most people associate the term “sustainability” first and foremost with environmental protection and the fight against climate change. This concept, though, which is omnipresent in politics, business and society, extends far beyond ecological issues. The United Nations has defined a total of 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or SFGs for short. Agreed in Agenda 2030, the sustainability goals are directed at everyone: states, civil society, business, science and each and every individual. The community of nations has made “gender equality” its SDG 5. A number of requirements have to be met if a tick is to be put against this goal. At the forefront is an end to discrimination against women and the elimination of all kinds of violence. “Women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership” has been defined as a further subsidiary goal. This covers all levels of decision-making – from political through economic to public life.
Here it is clear, firstly, that gender equality is a matter of social justice and the foundation for a peaceful society. Secondly, where men and women act on the same level, this can also accelerate general development and strengthen the global economy. A large number of studies and research reports on this issue have since been produced. Their results have underpinned the general consensus with regard to the benefits of greater equality. Deloitte has put gender diversity in boardrooms across the world under the microscope no less than seven times. For its latest report, entitled “Women in the Boardroom: A Global Perspective”, almost 10,500 companies in 51 countries were analysed. While the research found that the under-representation of women remains a key area of focus for organisations globally, “overall progress remains slow, and for women in leadership positions, even slower,” the Deloitte authors conclude.
In that regard, the results of the analysis by the consultancy are stark, revealing that fewer than one fifth of the seats on management and supervisory boards in 2021 were occupied by women. All the same, this share has risen by just under 5 percentage points since 2016. The proportion of women at the top of a board is also climbing from a low level, rising from 3.8% in the 2016 analysis to 6.7% in 2021 (see graphs). Women are even more under-represented at the very top of the hierarchy: according to Deloitte, only one in twenty of the companies surveyed have a women as CEO. Finance departments are much more female, with 15.7% of CFOs being women – in 2018 this figure was 12.7%. This increase does not alter the fact that progress overall is much too slow. If the most recent pace were kept up, gender equality would not be achieved until 2045.
Stepping up the pace could, according to calculations of the OECD, strengthen economic power enormously. The organisation has worked out that a labour force with equal participation of men and women would increase global gross domestic product by 12% by 2030. “Frankly, I don't think that our economies can afford to ignore such huge potential,” said Mari Kiviniemi, deputy secretary-general of the OECD, as long ago as 2015. It is not least this enormous economic potential that makes SDG 5 interesting for investors as well. A study by McKinsey has established a correlation between the proportion of women in management teams and the economic success of companies. It revealed that the greater the gender diversity, the higher the likelihood of above-average profitability. That is reason enough to ensure parity between men and women when it comes to asset allocation too.
Source: Deloitte, “Women in the Boardroom: A Global Perspective”; published: February 2022; data as at March 2021. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.