Equality & diversity
Stamping out discrimination may seem like an obvious goal, but in many parts of the world, large groups of people aren't being given equal access to fundamental services. Progress has been made, but there is still a long way to go.
Investing in equality & diversity
The funds below hold investments that touch on the theme of equality and diversity in the workplace, society and/or local communities. These funds still hold a diverse range of companies meaning that there may be some crossover within the responsible investing themes.
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What is equality and diversity?
Equality, at its core, is making sure that individuals or groups are not treated differently or less favourably, based on their specific protected characteristic such as gender, race, disability and sexual orientation. In the UK, several anti-discrimination laws have been introduced to protect people, but this isn’t the case in many other countries.
Diversity is about inclusion; more specifically, the inclusion of different types of people, based on their specific protected characteristics. Businesses don’t thrive if everyone thinks the same, so by recognising and respecting a diverse workforce, it opens up a wealth of possibilities and nurtures creativity.
Gender equality means that men and women, girls and boys all have access to the same resources and opportunities, with the same rights and protections. This includes access to healthcare, education, decent work and equal representation in political and economic decision-making processes.
As the United Nation states, ‘gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world’. Currently, a large percentage of women across the globe experience discrimination in many forms, with 49 countries not having any laws in place to protect them. Eradicating gender inequality will also fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.
Diversity in the workplace
There have been many studies over the years that suggest a higher level of diversity in the workplace can benefit not only employees, but the economy as well. One such study suggested that utilising the full potential of black and minority ethnic (BME) individuals could contribute £24 billion to the UK economy after a year. Although BME individuals make up 10% of the UK workforce, they only hold 6% of top management positions
Despite legislation being introduced in 2003, 32% of LGBT+ employees actively choose to hide their sexual orientation from their employer. While UK legislation sets minimum standards in order to combat discrimination, there is still a need for companies to adopt a diversity and inclusion strategy. This should aid employee well-being and engagement, as well as add value to their organisation.
What is being done to improve equality and diversity?
As issues of diversity become more prominent in the cultural zeitgeist, the world is slowly heading towards a more accepting and inclusive society. There are numerous initiatives helping to push this movement, all with the unifying aim to create a more inclusive culture.
Inclusive company cultures
There are numerous ways that businesses are cultivating inclusive company cultures, from employee networks to company-wide diversity and inclusion programmes.
The Financial Times has created lists that recognise and celebrate diverse executives and future leaders from a range of businesses. These people not only have successful careers but are also creating supportive workplaces. The first is the OUTstanding list, which started in 2013 and celebrates LGBT+ executives and straight allies in the corporate world. Another is the EMpower list, identifying black, Asian and minority ethnic role models from the UK and North America. The third is the HERoes list, highlighting individuals that were identified as champions of women.
By creating and publicising these lists, not only is the Financial Times promoting more awareness of these issues, but they are also encouraging companies to create diverse workforces and nurture inclusive cultures to follow in the footsteps of the successful organisations featured.
In recent years, there has been an increase in transparency from companies, with many gathering and publishing their own diversity numbers. This is a sign of the growing interest in this issue amongst the corporate and social communities.
One initiative is the Women in Finance Charter, which asks financial services firms to commit to implement four key industry actions. By signing the Charter, companies pledge to promote gender diversity by having a member of the senior executive team responsible for gender diversity and inclusion. The pledge also includes setting internal targets, publishing annual progress against these targets and linking senior executive pay to the delivery of these internal targets. As of July 2019, there have been over 330 firms within the financial services sector that have signed up to the commitments of the Charter.
Gender Lens Investing
Gender Lens Investing is a form of impact investing that considers the benefits to women, whilst also aiming for a positive return. It can include investing in female-owned businesses, companies with a strong history of employing women, or companies with products or services that improve the lives of women and girls.