The $12 Trillion Opportunity Ripe for Investing Dollars: Advancing Gender Equality
On Saturday, more than three million people around the country — that’s one out of every 100 Americans — and upwards of another 250,000 people around the world marched in the name of gender equality. On Sunday, many of those same people woke up and asked, “What’s next?” Supporters have posted lists and guides for for the weeks and months ahead, but for those who might want to literally put their money where their mouths are, a new report from BNY Mellon and the United Nations Foundation serves as an alternative template. Its key suggestion: simultaneously accelerate progress and tap into a multi-trillion dollar opportunity by investing in companies that are gender-diverse, led by women, or providing services that help advance gender equality.
The concept of impact investing is not new, to be sure, but where this report, “Return on Equality”(a play on words; typically in finance, ROE means “return on equity”) is notable is in some of the numbers it puts forward. Funds that focus on environmentally and socially positive means, BNY Mellon and the U.N. Foundation say, saw their assets quadruple to $4.3 trillion between 2012 and 2014 alone. And there are literally trillions of dollars in gross domestic product that could be unlocked by investing in companies, products and services that seek to close the gender gap.
“Achieving gender equality is essential as a matter of justice and human rights— and it also unleashes a range of positive economic and development outcomes,” the report states (in its first line, it should be noted). “In fact, the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that narrowing the global gender gap could add $12 trillion in annual gross domestic product.”
In developed countries like the United States, conversations on closing the gender gap often focus on closing the wage gap, specifically. But “Return on Equality” highlights some of the basic needs that go unfulfilled for women around the world: ”Globally, 1.7 billion women still do not own a mobile phone and 1.1 billion women are unbanked — both major barriers to pursuing and benefiting from economic opportunities,” the report states. “Approximately 225 million women have an unmet need for modern contraception, preventing them from determining the number, spacing, and timing of births that best align with their aspirations for themselves and their families.”