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Closing the 30% Gender Gap by 2030

March 7, 2024

‘Gender equality and women’s empowerment’ is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to work towards peace and prosperity for people and the planet by 2030. With less than six years to go to 2030, we take stock of how gender equality is progressing, what needs to be prioritized and how investors can help.

A status update on gender equality

Unfortunately, at the current pace of change, the world is not on track to achieve gender equality by 2030. It is estimated that it will take:

286 years to remove discriminatory laws globally

140 years for women to be represented equally in leadership positions including in the workplace

95 years to reach gender parity in the U.S. and Canada alone1
Moreover, the United Nations (UN) reports that over 30% of countries still do not provide maternity leave based on International Labour Organization (ILO) standards. 2 While gender equality is considered an ‘accelerator’ for achieving many other SDGs, persisting inequalities threaten progress across the entire UN 2030 Agenda. At the most recent SDG Summit, António Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN, said: “It’s time to sound the alarm.”3

Gender equality is imperative for long-term prosperity

The figure below by the World Economic Forum shows that we have to bridge a gap of about 30% to close the Global Gender Gap and just under 40% to bridge the Economic Participation and Opportunities gap. Working towards gender equality is important in its own right, but is also known to enhance economic efficiency, increase productivity and overall prosperity. For example, the McKinsey Global Institute found that if women were to participate in the economy identically to men, they could add as much as $28 trillion or 26 percent to annual global GDP in 2025 4.
This would be equivalent to adding the entire economies of the U.S. and China combined. However, as the same study suggests, achieving economic gender quality is only possible through addressing social gender inequality: ensuring women are treated equally in society so that they can be equal participants in work.

Figure 1: World Economic Forum, Global Gender Gap Index, 2023

What can investors do?

Investors can contribute to advancing gender equality through embedding a gender lens into investment and stewardship-related processes, including fund monitoring, fund construction, engagement with portfolio companies, proxy voting and engaging policymakers and standard-setters. For example, to encourage an increase in the number of women in workplace leadership positions, investors can ask portfolio companies not only to increase female representation and grow their pipelines, but also to put in place policies that support women at work, such as paid sick leave, paid parental leave, compassionate care leave and benefits related to childcare. Companies should cascade these types of expectations to their global suppliers as well and work along the supply chain to ensure good quality work and opportunities for women. Investors can also encourage portfolio companies to commit to and implement global standards related to decent work and human rights, including ILO standards and the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).

While the SDGs were not created with an investment perspective in mind, investors can use the SDGs as a framework to help guide efforts.

BMO GAM’s efforts

In order to more broadly align our stewardship work with global sustainability and development goals, we track our engagements with portfolio companies relative to the SDGs and report out annually on our efforts. The SDGs that we believe particularly contribute to gender equality are:

      • SDG 5: Gender Equality
      • SDG 8: Decent Work
      • SDG 10: Reducing Inequalities

 

We identified key performance indicators (KPIs) under each SDG where investors can reasonably contribute through engaging portfolio companies. Over the past three years we have made the following efforts related to SDG 5, 8 and 10.

Figure 2: Engagement Efforts per SDG
SDG 5 Gender Equality
SDG 8 Decent Work
SDG 10 Reducing Inequalities
2021

133 engagements

13% of total instances

103 engagements

10% of total instances

30 engagements

3% of total instances

2022

90 engagements

6% of total instances

180 engagements

12% of total instances

75 engagements

5% of total instances

2023

321 engagements

12% of total instances

380 engagements

14% of total instances

104 engagements

4% of total instances

These numbers capture all engagement efforts BMO GAM has made in-house, mainly in North America, as well as global engagements conducted on our behalf by external third-party engagement provider reo©. Our attention has shifted back and forth between these SDGs over the past three years; however, we have steadily increased the portion of our efforts on gender equality, decent work and reducing inequalities, relative to our total efforts. Specifically decent work, which captures topics such as pay equity, human capital management, workforce reporting and fair wages and benefits, has grown in importance from 10% to 14%.

Advocating for public policy change and partnering with others

In addition to engaging with portfolio companies, BMO GAM engages with policymakers and standard- setters in order to raise the bar across sectors, markets or globally. Recently, we engaged the Canadian Securities Administrators to share our investor perspective that transparent and comparable company reporting on board and executive diversity should be made mandatory. We are also part of investor collaborations specifically focused on advancing gender diversity, such as the 30% Club Canada, which advocates for a minimum of 30% women on corporate boards and executive offices. The 30% Club investor group recently amended its statement and mandate to recognize the intersection between gender and other types of diversity, such as racial diversity or Indigeneity.

It will take many groups and strategies to bridge the 30% gender equality gap by 2030. BMO GAM aims to continue to evolve and increase our efforts to further gender equality through engagement with portfolio companies, regulators and policymakers, and our broader industry.

If you are interested in the topic of gender equality as well as investing with BMO GAM, here are some things to consider:
      • BMO GAM’s thematic fund offerings including the BMO Women in Leadership Fund (available as a mutual fund and an ETF series).
      • As per our Corporate Governance Guidelines5, all mutual funds and ETFs managed by BMO GAM where we vote equity shares set a minimum expectation of 30% women directors on the boards of North American companies that we invest in. This means that we often vote against the chair of the board’s nominating committee when diversity levels do not meet our expectation. 6
      • All mutual funds and ETFs managed by BMO GAM are covered by a stewardship program that engages with underlying portfolio companies to address sustainability risks and opportunities. This includes encouraging progress on gender equality and diversity, equity and inclusion and decent work.
 

Commissions, management fees and expenses (if applicable) may be associated with investments in mutual funds and exchange traded funds (ETFs). Trailing commissions may be associated with investments in mutual funds. Please read the fund facts, ETF Facts or prospectus of the relevant mutual fund or ETF before investing. Mutual funds and ETFs are not guaranteed, their values change frequently and past performance may not be repeated.

 

For a summary of the risks of an investment in BMO Mutual Funds or BMO ETFs, please see the specific risks set out in the prospectus of the relevant mutual fund or ETF.  BMO ETFs trade like stocks, fluctuate in market value and may trade at a discount to their net asset value, which may increase the risk of loss. Distributions are not guaranteed and are subject to change and/or elimination.

 

BMO Mutual Funds are offered by BMO Investments Inc., a financial services firm and separate entity from Bank of Montreal. BMO ETFs are managed and administered by BMO Asset Management Inc., an investment fund manager and portfolio manager and separate legal entity from Bank of Montreal.

 

BMO Global Asset Management is a brand name under which BMO Asset Management Inc. and BMO Investments Inc. operate. Certain of the products and services offered under the brand name, BMO Global Asset Management, are designed specifically for various categories of investors in Canada and may not be available to all investors. Products and services are only offered to investors in Canada in accordance with applicable laws and regulatory requirements.

 

®/™Registered trademarks/trademark of Bank of Montreal, used under licence.

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