Investing in Women: Bloomberg Financial Services Gender-Equality Index

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Bloomberg L.P., the global business and financial information leader, has a finger on the pulse of innovation and diversity. Inside Bloomberg’s soaring glass-walled headquarters in midtown Manhattan, Bloomberg experts are breaking down glass ceilings and compiling information on the upside of gender equality. The recently-launched Bloomberg Financial Services Gender-Equality Index (BFGEI) is a guide to best-in-class public companies in the financial services industry providing opportunities and services for women.

Angela Sun, Head of Strategy and Corporate Development
Angela Sun, Head of Strategy and Corporate Development
Photo courtesy Bloomberg L.P.

Every American working woman knows that she earns only 79 cents for every dollar her male colleagues make. It’s a statistic that cuts like a knife during the morning commute or the race home to prepare dinner for the family and help kids with homework. Enter Angela Sun, Head of Strategy and Corporate Development, who works in Bloomberg headquarters. Projecting that 79 cents and gender inequality into the global financial arena, Sun offers a couple of staggering numbers with lots and lots of zeros..

Sun points out: “According to the World Bank, there are more than a billion women outside the formal financial system. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that $12 trillion could be added to the global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality.” The BFGEI is designed to address all those zeros affecting the global economy.

Why is now a good time for Bloomberg to launch this initiative? Explains Sun: “Investors and managers have long known that diversity is good for the bottom line. Now, they are looking for solid data to evaluate an individual company’s reputation, value, and performance.”

Bloomberg Index has made a commitment to provide investors with industry-leading market data and analysis in the still-opaque areas of ESG data. Investors are increasingly relying on this data which includes environmental information alongside corporate social responsibility and governance information. Clarity and transparency in this data bring investors and companies together.

The BFGEI is designed to showcase companies that have made strong commitments to gender equality. Participation in the Index is voluntary and there are no associated costs. Sun stresses that the Index is not a benchmark: “We collect data for reference purposes only. The BFGEI is not ranked.”

The Index provides information on 56 data points in 4 areas for each company: gender statistics, company policies, products and services, and community engagement. These data points provide investors with an objective, quantified comparison of a company’s performance and commitment to gender equality relative to its peers. The information collected by the Index ranges from the number of women working for the company and serving on the board, to child care services and parental leave provided. The Index also measures the level of gender consciousness in a company’s products and services, as well as engagement with the outside community.

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For participating companies, the BFGEI also provides the opportunity to highlight their accomplishments in improving gender equality. The Index is also valuable in helping companies to attract potential female talent. Customers, vendors, governments and community groups all benefit from the information as well.

The BFGEI began with 26 public companies. Companies with a market capitalization of at least $15 billion and at least one security trading on a U.S. exchange, were invited to participate in the initial survey.

Banking heavyweights JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup, insurance giant MetLife, and credit card company Visa, are in the initial Index. In response to the overwhelming positive feedback, Bloomberg plans to expand the Gender-Equality Index product to other business sectors in the coming years. Currently, the BFGEI is only available through Bloomberg proprietary terminals.

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How do the first group of BFGEI companies stack up? Women make up 26% of BFGEI company board members versus only 13% for the overall financial services industry. An impressive 92% of BFGEI companies are committed to increasing the percentage of women they hire by putting mechanisms in place to identify and recruit qualified women. Fully 81% of BFGEI companies sponsor financial education programs for women in their communities. Nice going.

The bottom line is that diversity is good for business. The hope is that BFGEI will help to add those meaningful zeros to the global GDP, and bring more women inside the formal financial system.

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