By Keelia Fitzpatrick, Policy and Campaigns Intern, ShareAction
2 March 2015
Gender equality is not the central focus of ShareAction’s work – but women are distinctly affected in every area we work on. We’re marking International Women’s Day by shining a light on how women feature in seven areas of our work.
Women on Executive Boards
The corporate world is often characterised as being male-dominated. Looking at the Executive Boards of FTSE 100 companies, this characterisation still rings true. As of October 2014, women make up 8.4% of Executive Directors on FTSE 100 boards. This lack of diversity not only fails to represent the society we live in – it also makes little business sense. Research shows that companies with more women board directors perform better financially. ShareAction challenges companies on board diversity by attending AGMs and asking, ‘#WhereAreTheWomen?’ If you’d like to challenge companies on this, join our AGM Army!
Women in the investment industry
Women can bring valuable approaches to financial services. A ground-breaking study found that on average male investment professionals traded 45% more frequently than women. This hyperactive trading reduced their net returns by significantly more than those of women. Put simply, women tend to focus on long-term wealth creation, making them ideally suited to be successful investors. Despite this, women in financial services are more likely to be found in support, HR and compliance roles. Companies and investors would benefit from broadening and diversifying the roles that are performed by and offered to women.
Women as financial product consumers
As financial consumers, women tend to be more attuned to responsible and ethical investment. A recent survey found that a whopping 83% of British women want their money to be invested ethically and without damaging the environment. So where would women like to invest their money? After property, the number one choice was renewable energy. Women are also more likely to seek transparency in their investments.
Women and climate change
We can see the adverse effects of climate change all around us – it affects our food security, health, migration patterns and much more. Women are often more vulnerable to the effects of climate change—primarily because globally women are more likely to live in poverty. Women are also more dependent for their livelihood on natural resources that are threatened by climate change. Alarmingly, women constitute 80% of climate change refugees. At ShareAction, we’re targeting investors to pressure oil giants Shell and BP to take climate risks seriously – you can show your support here.
Women and tax avoidance
ActionAid estimates that UK companies avoid £3 billion a year in tax revenues in developing countries. Maternal death rates represent the single largest health discrepancy between developed and developing countries. Maternal mortality rates are consistently higher in these countries due to a lack of basic infrastructure and healthcare. If UK companies stopped dodging tax, could women’s lives be saved around the world? If you feel strongly about the damage tax avoidance is doing to public services, join us in supporting the Tax Dodging Bill campaign.
Women and low pay
Getting companies to pay staff a wage that meets the basic cost of living in the UK, the Living Wage, is especially important as increasing levels of women are in low paid work. A staggering one in four women currently earn less than the Living Wage, compared to 16% of men. You can ask companies who are not accredited Living Wage employers to sign up by supporting our Living Wage campaign!
Women and pensions
On average, women’s personal pensions are only 62% of men’s. Women make up the majority of pensioners living below the breadline. The causes of this are partly historical: before 1970 women could legally be banned from joining private pension schemes if they were married or worked part-time. Women continue to be excluded from pensions in 2015 – the Government’s auto-enrolment scheme means employers must enrol anyone earning over £10,000 into a pension scheme. Therefore, one in four women is excluded from auto enrolment because of the high number of women in low pay or part time work.
Happy International Women’s Day to all! Now let’s address gender equality by making change happen in the financial sector!