*This article was originally written for our Swiss market, it may contain Swiss references.
Yova CEO Tillmann Lang on why investing time, energy and money in equality is a huge opportunity for women and men.
Switzerland’s Equal Treatment Act may have come into force in 1961, but nearly 60 years later we are still subject to barriers that make it difficult to reach full gender parity. Luckily, awareness is rising and the call for social, economical and political change is getting louder. In June 2019, hundreds of thousands of women and men raised their voice at women’s strikes all over Switzerland. Their message was clear: They want equal rights and privileges at equal conditions. For women and for men.
Fortunately, a large part of our society now understands gender inequality is a problem that needs solving. But have you ever thought of it as an opportunity? Of course the economy is also developing rapidly in line with this social trend, for example by creating new attractive part-time positions or by actively supporting longer parental leave for mothers and fathers alike. That said, there’s two great opportunities that are highly auspicious – from an economical but also from an individual perspective:
1. Equality as a business driver
Women make up 50% of our worldwide population. However, according to a McKinsey study, they only generate 37% of the global GDP. Consequently, it’s estimated that if women had the same opportunities and became equally active in our economy, companies around the globe would have the potential to add a minimum of $12 Trillion to the world’s GDP by 2025. That’s the (impressive) big picture. But let’s take a look at where we stand in Switzerland…
Did you know that women usually have the biggest say when it comes to purchases and administrative decisions of their family? Yet, in Switzerland women remain poorly represented among the leading decision makers in the business world. According to the 2019 Schilling Report, only 24% of all middle management positions in Switzerland were held by women, while 96% of all CEOs were men. So basically, men choose the product range for a predominantly female clientele. What we have here is a huge untapped business potential that screams for more women in leading positions.
Meanwhile, several international studies demonstrate that women are more likely to thrive in companies that are actively championing gender issues. Accenture estimates that women are 280% more likely to reach a leadership position in an empowering company. And guess what? Their companies grow with them! According to an IMF staff study, narrowing the gender gap economically means new skills and ideas, higher productivity and eventually a rising GDP. And to my fellow men: There’s no need to feel left out! The results show that men, too, benefit from an equal workplace. The WEF suggests that for example, since productivity will increase, men’s wages will increase, too.
But what is a gender equal culture and how can it be achieved? That’s where decision makers have to become active – most importantly through the following measures:
- Challenging recruitment processes in order to create diverse teams. For instance at Yova, we learned that by simply rewriting job postings and using less “male” wording we achieved a much more diverse inflow of applications.
- Providing equal pay for work of comparable responsibility. This should be a no-brainer for any company that considers itself just and modern.
- Eliminating discrimination, particularly in relation to family and caring responsibilities. For instance by fostering flexible working hours and part-time positions.
- Setting a special focus on men by encouraging them to make use of family-friendly work conditions, too.
- Introducing specific mentoring programs for women. It can balance out the fact that men often benefit from informal legacy networks that women don’t have access to.
Clearly, on an economical level there’s a lot to gain by narrowing the gender gap, but it takes decision makers to initiate that change. However, there is a highly efficient and purposeful way how you as an individual can drive this development, too. Which leads us to the second opportunity.
2. Equality as an investment
We learned that gender balance has the power to improve our individual well-being and drive business. In fact, a 2016 Credit Suisse research demonstrates that the higher the percentage of women in top management, the greater the returns for shareholders. Which, combined with all the economical arguments stated above, makes gender equality one of the biggest investment opportunities of our time.
At this point it’s important to clarify: This paragraph is not about tactically profiting from a social trend. It’s about understanding the system and making use of it to our society’s advantage. But how does that work as an individual?
Firstly, as an investor you get the chance to have a say and actively shape the companies you’re investing in. Secondly, your returns actually come from supporting a good cause. A cause which, in the case of gender equality, is not only a great opportunity for a strong and healthy economy but also for a happy and fulfilled society.
Do you want to know more about investing in a better world? I can recommend the following articles for more information on impact investing: