The case for gender equality has never been stronger — not only the ethical case but the investment and economic cases, as well. Progress, however, remains slow and somewhat patchy, for the same reasons that efforts to tackle other forms of inequality are measured by the turtle’s pace rather than the gazelle’s: The power elite almost never give up ground without a fight. But that’s turning into a losing, if protracted, battle.
The logical power of the case for equality persists, and, increasingly, investors are understanding the power of that logic. Over the past couple of years we have seen some large, mainstream asset managers and asset owners begin to withhold votes from all-male boards or from certain committee chairs at all-male boards. Shareholder proposals asking that companies conduct pay audits and take steps to mend gender pay gaps have been getting double-digit votes, and while few have passed, the vote tallies have been respectable, especially considering that at many of the tech companies that receive these proposals, insider voting power is considerable.
The literature that supports votes such as these and investor interest in diversity continues to grow and is becoming richer in content: No longer are the studies only about the correlation between board gender diversity and share prices, or other measures of financial performance. Those studies are still being done, but the landscape is more varied now, with encompassing subjects such as risk, sustainability and innovation, and their connection with gender diversity. Here are some of the noteworthy recent additions to that literature.