03 Sep 2021

Podcast: Minding the gender gap, with L’Oréal and Equileap

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It’s time for the second episode of our new investing podcast, One Step Ahead, brought to you by Lyxor ETF.

In this episode, Libby Potter explores the topic of gender equality and its impact on corporate performance. While the moral and ethical arguments for gender equality are widely accepted, she finds growing evidence that a gender-diverse workforce has a positive impact on a business's bottom line too.

She is joined by guests Diana Van Maasdijk, CEO and co-founder at the independent data provider and research organisation Equileap, and Margaret Johnston-Clarke, Global Chief Diversity Equity Inclusion Officer at L'Oréal. Diana and Margaret gave their honest take on the state of gender equality in the corporate world, recognising where there has been progress and highlighting important areas for improvement. They also make the case for investing in gender equality.

Diana

Diana van Maasdijk

CEO and co-founder,  Equileap

Margaret

Margaret Johnston-Clarke

Global Chief Diversity Equity Inclusion
L'Oréal

Below are a few edited highlights from the episode. You can listen to the full episode on your favourite podcast platform (Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher) or right here on the Lyxor ETF website:

Libby: I want to take the temperature of this issue of gender equality in the corporate world. What are your headline thoughts on where we are?

Diana: When I think of where we are today, I have to think about 30 years ago when I was in college and taking classes in gender studies, and at the time we were discussing issues like the gender pay gap, lack of paid parental leave for both men and women, sexual harassment, lack of women in leadership positions. Today, we continue to see these exact same problems. So, I think it's safe to say that we have not been able to advance too much in the last decades. But at the same time, we have to make a change because we know that gender equality is not only good for society, but it also has positive financial repercussions. I'm hoping that it's a problem that we can resolve within the next decade and that we don't have to wait another three.

Margaret, what’s your take?

Margaret: I think that gender equality has definitely made progress in the last few decades, but I would agree with Diana: there's a lot still to be done from a company's point of view. I think this has become a real issue today, which wasn't necessarily the case a few decades ago. So, I think that that's where we've made a tremendous advancement. Diversity, equity, inclusion are now present in most of the bigger businesses, but even smaller ones and medium-sized ones worldwide. There's been a huge wake-up call also in the last 12 months on social injustice issues, but also on sexism with #MeToo for the past three years. These are all issues that have stirred up conversations, discussions, but also policies internally. I work at L'Oréal, where we've done this for the past 20 years – we didn't wait for #MeToo to happen. But it's true that it definitely accelerated that discussion and it enabled us to test a lot of different programmes to fight sexism in the workplace, and to share best practices with other companies worldwide. I would say it's on a positive note: there's lots to be done, but we've moved forward in the last few years.

Diana, why does gender equality matter not just from a societal but an economic perspective? What evidence is there to support the idea that gender diverse companies perform better?

Diana: I think it's become more and more well-known that the societal benefits are there, that a world with equality and equal opportunities for everybody is a better world. But there's also a very strong business case which is not yet fully recognised, which is too bad because we're seeing more and more research that is pointing towards this direction. There are a number of research papers published by Harvard, MSCI, Credit Suisse, all kinds of companies pointing out that when you have more gender diversity, you have higher financial performance. But I'll give you an example of one of the latest research pieces which was published in late 2020 by an asset management firm called Glenmede.
Glenmede took the Russell 1000, which contains the 1000 largest companies in the US, and they ranked these companies based on Equileap’s gender equality score. Then, they looked at the financial performance of these companies from 2014 to 2020, and they found out that the top 20 percent of the companies, meaning the companies with the better gender equality score, outperformed the bottom 20 percent by almost three percent. There was a higher financial return in those companies that were doing better on gender diversity. And this is one of many other research papers.

Margaret, what have you found in terms of economic performance tallying with greater gender equality within a corporation?

Margaret: Well, I think that we obviously believe that a gender-diverse company performs better. If I were to build on what Diana just shared, I think that in our case, women make up two-thirds of our workforce. While we do have consumers of all genders, women do represent the majority. So, we need to reflect our consumers and therefore to create the beauty products that answer all of their needs, their expectations around the world.
So, I think having gender equity in our leadership, in our decision making – not just amongst our beauty advisors or teams, but really in the decision making – is absolutely crucial. It benefits everyone in the company, men and people of all of genders. We found that in terms of performance, more than half of our brands today are managed by women from a GM [General Manager] position. Almost half of our expatriates are women today, which wasn't the case a while ago. To have that diversity at the top level and that equity is absolutely fundamental from a performance standpoint.

It seems obvious to us that a more diverse company would perform better. However, Diana, your gender equality report that you mentioned earlier which ranks these top performing companies, makes this indisputable. Can you talk any more about the findings of your latest 2021 report?

Diana
Sure. Every year we publish a report on how these companies are doing at the gender equality level and the last one in 2021. We have three main findings that I can share with you. First of all, we are far from achieving gender balance in the workplace. Unfortunately, although things have improved, we see that women hold 25 percent of the board positions and only 17 percent of executive positions globally. For many years we've been trying to target 30 percent. And at the global level, we're still not there. So that still needs to improve. Second, despite the #MeToo movement, which has been going on for three years already, we see that more than 50 percent of the companies, or 51 percent, to be exact, do not have an anti-sexual harassment policy. And we know that this is a problem for the workplace and that companies need to start doing something about that. We hope to see an improvement. And finally, the majority of the companies, 85 percent, still do not publish their gender pay gap. In fact, of all the 4,000 that we researched, only 15 companies have actually said “we have closed the gender pay gap in our company”. And here's another area where we hope to see improvement in the years to come.

Libby Wow. That actually surprises me. Shocks me.

Catch up on the rest of the conversation in the full episode of One Step Ahead.

We hope you’ll join us in upcoming episodes for more exclusive and unfiltered expert insights on the future of the planet – and how we can invest in a better future.

Our SFDR 8 compliant Lyxor Gender Equality (DR) UCITS ETF offers a simple way to take a stand for women in the workforce, and invest in gender-diverse companies.

The benefits of gender equality from an investment perspective as measured by Equileap’s score were highlighted in this insight by Glenmede, as mentioned by Diana in this podcast.

At the time of this podcast recording, L’Oréal was a holding in our Gender Equality ETF (Bloomberg ticker: ELLE). In its 2021 Global Gender Equality Report, Equileap ranked L’Oréal the top performing French company for gender equality and 4th globally.

Learn more about our Gender Equality ETF

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