Gender-lens’ Investors Direct Their Money To Women-led Companies
Gender-lens investors are looking to direct their money to companies with more women on their boards and in management.
Greater gender diversity is related to higher stock performance, improved risk management and lower incidences of fraud, research shows.
It’s a small but growing focus in the environmental, social and governance investing movement: gender equity.
So-called gender-lens investing prioritizes companies with higher representation of women on their boards and in management positions, as well as those that score well on pay equity and other workplace policies that especially help women, such as generous paid leave plans.
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“We’re seeing more investors, primarily women … looking to bring a gender lens to their portfolio,” said Kathleen McQuiggan, a financial advisor at Artemis in Boston.
Roughly $3.6 billion is invested in the more than two dozen mutual funds, exchange-traded funds and other equity products that zero in on this strategy, according to Parallelle Finance, a gender-lens research and advisory firm. That amount is just a sliver of the $330 billion invested in the broader category of ESG investing in the U.S., according to Morningstar.
Yet the amount flowing into these funds has grown steadily over the past five or so years due to an increased appetite from investors. The #MeToo movement and high-profile sexual harassment cases have contributed to the rising interest in supporting companies with greater representation of women or with policies that support gender equity.
Some gender-lens funds have performed well this year, while others have lagged. For example, the S&P 500 Index posted a 24% return through October, compared with 17.6% for the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Leadership Fund, according to Morningstar Direct.
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Saying something is gender-lens-focused doesn’t mean it won’t use investment criteria.
Nevertheless, “there is no reason to think you’ll underperform,” said Jon Hale, director of ESG strategy at Morningstar. “Saying something is gender-lens-focused doesn’t mean it won’t use investment criteria.”
What’s more, greater gender diversity at a company is related to higher share price performance, improved risk management and lower incidences of fraud, said Angela Atherton, principal of operations and strategy at Parallelle Finance.
“I personally believe the funds will outperform in the long run,” said McQuiggan, describing more women across firms’ workforce as “the secret ingredient for why you might want to own this fund instead of that fund.”
Eleven new gender-lens funds have popped up since 2018, including four in just the past year, according to Parallelle Finance.
In another sign of the strategy’s growth, the assets under management in the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Leadership Fund — which is a forerunner in the space, dating back to 1993 — have doubled over the last 20 months, to nearly $1 billion from $500 million.
The fund, which requires a minimum investment of $1,000 and has an expense ratio of 0.78%, tracks some 400 companies by their representation of women on their board of directors and their transparency with gender diversity data, among other factors. More than a third of the fund’s firms have female CEOs, for example, compared with 17% of those in the MSCI World Index.
Beyond the bottom line, there may also be an element of advocacy to these gender-lens strategies.
“The impact we’re looking to address are cultural challenges that make it hard for underrepresented populations to thrive in their organizations,” said Nicole Connolly, portfolio manager of the Fidelity Women’s Leadership Fund, which looks for companies with at least one-third of their board seats held by women.
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Women hold just a third of S&P 500 board seats today, and only 6% of the firms in the index are headed by women.
At investment manager Nia Impact Capital, pushing for gender equity is an ongoing endeavor.
The firm’s $470 million Global Solutions Equity Portfolio consists of 50 companies that not only have women in leadership positions but also offer products and services that are beneficial to women and girls (such as breast cancer research).
Nia votes all proxies, as well as talks to companies specifically about diversity, inclusion and gender issues, and shares best practices related to fair pay, diversity and recruiting techniques.
“We’re engaging actively with every company, bringing our investor voice as a right and responsibility as far as what the world needs,” said Kristin Hull, CEO and founder of Nia.
The portfolio comes with an investment minimum of $100,000 and is available as a separately managed account through trading platforms like Fidelity Investments or Charles Schwab, Hull said. The cost ranges from 0.7% to 1.5% of assets managed, depending on where the account is held and how much money you have invested.
In the end, investors can only do so much to improve the representation of women across corporate America, experts caution. They say legislation and regulation are also needed.
There’s been recent movement on those fronts too.
In August, the Securities and Exchange Commission approved Nasdaq’s rule for newly listed companies, which will require most of the firms to have at least two diverse board directors, or to explain why they don’t. The stock exchange operator found that more than three-quarters of its currently listed companies don’t meet that standard.
Meanwhile, a dozen states have passed legislation to improve diversity on boards, or are on their way to doing so.
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NLC Directs Officials To Monitor Banks Over Cash Scarcity
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has directed its officials across the country to go round and monitor cash dispensing situations at the commercial banks.
This is coming ahead of today’s National Executive Council, NEC meeting, leaders of orfficials of state councils of NLC and industrial union affiliates are to take pictorial evidence of the actual situations at the banks, “whether the banks are dispensing cash or not, and report same to the NLC headquarters.”
The monitoring which ends by 12.30 pm will enable the NEC meeting that will commence by 1:00 p.m.at the Labour House, Abuja, takes a final decision on tomorrow’s planned nationwide strike over the cash crunch in the country.
The National leadership of NLC gave the directive yesterday (Monday, March 27).
An official of NLC who spokelsaid, “Yes, the directive was given yesterday. Union leaders are to go around their areas to monitor commercial banks this Morning before 12.30pm and show pictorial evidence of the situation at the banks.
“Whether they are dispensing cash or not. The pictorial evidencesl are to be forwarded to Congress headquarters to be us assess the activities of Commercial banks before the NEC meeting by 1pm to enable us take a final decision on tomorrow’s planned industrial action.”
BREAKING: Old N200, N500, N1,000 Notes Remain Legal Tender Till Dec 31 – CBN
In compliance with a ruling of the Supreme Court, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has declared that old N200, N500, N1,000 banknotes remain legal tender till December 31, 2023.
The apex bank’s Acting Director of Corporate Communications, Isa AbdulMumin spoke in a statement on Monday. This is coming 10 days after the Supreme Court ruled that old naira notes should co-exist with new ones till the end of the year.
“In compliance with the established tradition of obedience to court orders and sustenance of the Rule of Law Principle that characterized the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, and by extension, the operations of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), as a regulator, Deposit Money Banks operating in Nigeria have been directed to comply with the Supreme Court ruling of March 3, 2023.
“Accordingly, the CBN met with the Bankers’ Committee and has directed that the old N200, N500 and N1000 banknotes remain legal tender alongside the redesigned banknotes till December 31, 2023.
“Consequently, all concerned are directed to conform accordingly,” the statement read.
The highest court of the land had on March 3 ordered that old N200, N500 and N1000 notes remain valid till December 31, 2023.
This was after 16 states of the federation instituted a suit to challenge the legality or otherwise of the introduction of the policy.
The 16 states led by Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara had prayed the apex court to void and set aside the policy on the ground that it is inflicting hardships on innocent Nigerians.
The Supreme Court subsequently ruled that President Muhammadu Buhari’s disobedience of its February 8 order is a sign of dictatorship, adding that the President breached the Constitution of the Federation in the way he issued directives for the re-designing of the Naira by the CBN.
After the March 3 judgement by the Supreme Court, the Presidency, CBN and the AGF kept mum, throwing many bank customers and Nigerians into confusion as the ruling of the apex court contradicted the directive of the President on February 16 that old N500 and N1000 notes are banned and old N200 notes remain valid till April 10.
However, the Presidency broke its silence on Monday, saying the President never told the CBN and the AGF not to obey the order of the apex court.
“The CBN has no reason not to comply with court orders on the excuse of waiting for directives from the President,” the Presidency noted.
According to the Presidency, the President is an absolute respecter of the rule of law and that the “negative campaign and personalised attacks against the President by the opposition and all manner of commentators is unfair and unjust.”
The CBN had extended the deadline for the swap of old N200, N500, and N1,000 from January 31 to February 10 following complaints by many Nigerians but the Supreme Court, after a suit filed by the states, held that the Federal Government, the CBN, commercial banks must not continue with the February 10 deadline pending the determination of a notice in respect of the issue.
However, the President, in a national broadcast on February 16, directed the apex bank to release old N200 notes into circulation to co-exist with new N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes for 60 days — by April 10, 2023. He also said old N500 and N1,000 banknotes cease to be legal tender in Nigeria.
There has been a flurry of reactions and stark criticisms against the President’s directive including from governors of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Governors Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Umar Ganduje (Kano); Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo; and many stalwarts of the ruling APC have openly censured and faulted the President’s directive, arguing that it has no grounds because the case is before the apex court.
Leading Senior Advocates of Nigeria like Femi Falana and Mike Ozekhome have equally faulted the President’s move, saying he cannot overrule the apex court of the land.
CBN Asked Banks To Receive Old Naira Notes – Soludo
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has asked commercial banks to dispense and accept old naira notes as deposits, according to Anambra State Governor Charles Soludo.
Soludo, a former CBN governor, made this known in a statement he posted on his social media handles.
He explained that the Governor of CBN, Godwin Emefiele gave the directive at a Banker’s Committee meeting on Sunday.
He added that Emefiele personally confirmed the directive to him.
According to him, residents should report banks refusing to accept the old notes.
“Commercial banks have been directed by the Central Bank to dispense old currency notes and also to receive the same deposits from customers. Tellers at commercial banks are to generate the codes for deposits, and there is no limit to the number of times an individual or company can make deposits.”
“The Governor of the CBN gave the directive at a Bankers’ Committee meeting held on Sunday, 12th March 2023. The Governor, Dr Godwin Emefiele, personally confirmed the above to me during a phone conversation on Sunday night. Residents of Anambra are therefore advised to freely accept and transact their businesses with the old currency notes (N200, N500; and N1,000) and the new notes”, the statement added.
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