UK-based drinks supplier Diageo is the second highest placed firm in a study of global gender equality, which rated France to be the best country overall for gender equality, with the UK not far behind.
Equileap’s latest comprehensive study of gender equality in the world’s leading economies saw Australian property developer Mirvac head the list with a score of 79%, followed by Diageo (UK), Medibank (Australia), and Allianz (Germany), all scoring 75%, and UBS (Switzerland) with a score of 74%.
The most improved business in the Top 100 was the UK’s Tate & Lyle (UK), which increased its gender equality score by 15 percentage points to reach number 42 in the index.
The study applied 19 gender equality criteria, including gender balance from the board to the workforce, the gender pay gap within the organisation and policies relating to parental leave and sexual harassment.
Global progress on gender equality is happening, but it is far, far too slow. It’s easy to get frustrated by the wasted opportunity this creates for everyone” – Diana Van Massdijk, Equileap
Progress towards equality was uneven across the wide range of indicators. On a positive note, the global average score covering 3,787 companies rose from 34% in 2021 and 37% in 2022 to 41% over the past year. Equileap said this rise reflected the general improved disclosure that it had seen across companies globally, not only among top performers.
However, the report found that women in top leadership positions were still very rare. Only 6% of companies globally had a female CEO, 15% had a female CFO, and 8% had a female chair of the board. Women represented 28% of board members and 20% of executives but 38% of the total workforce. Gender balance across a company was rare, with only 18 companies globally achieving 40-60% of women at all levels (board, executive, management, and workforce). In some markets, the glass ceiling between the workforce and executive positions remains pervasive, most notably in Hong Kong and Switzerland.
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Only 22% of companies globally published their gender pay gap (up from 17% in 2022 and 15% in 2021), and less than 1% of companies in the world had closed the gender pay gap (ie published a mean, unadjusted gender pay gap +/-3% or less, overall or in all pay bands), found the report.
Equileap highlighted how disparities in transparency – a key indicator of progress – between countries remain huge: 98% of Spanish companies published their gender pay data, compared with only 12% of US companies.
CEO at Equileap Diana Van Massdijk acknowledged the improvement over the past few years but said progress was still at a snail’s pace. She said: “Global progress on gender equality is happening, but it is far, far too slow. It’s easy to get frustrated by the wasted opportunity this creates for everyone. But taking a three year overview when you research the data and trends in company practices, legislation and investment shows that this progress is starting to build its own momentum – gender equality is coming.”
Equileap, in addition to researching the index, advises companies on investing in companies with good equality records.
In terms of paid parental leave, gender-neutral policies encouraging and enabling fathers to take more leave were becoming more commonplace, the study noted. The number of companies offering equal leave to both parents had more than doubled from last year (322 in 2023 compared with 180 in 2022). At a national level, the Netherlands and Finland both increased the duration of and rate of pay for joint parental leave, and Japan introduced leave earmarked for fathers to encourage take-up.
In countries with limited or no statutory leave, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the US, some companies were stepping up to offer more generous parental leave than required by law. UK-based global investment firm Abrdn was leading the way, offering nine months of fully paid parental leave to all parents.
Finance and technology sectors
Finance was the sector that had most improved its record over the past year. It had done especially well on transparency and disclosures and increased its average score from 35% in 2021 and 38% in 2022 to 44% in 2023, Equileap found. The technology sector, on the other hand, had been outpaced by others, and was now the worst performing sector – it increased its average score from 31% in 2021 and 36% in 2022 to 39% in 2023.
The best markets for corporate gender equality were rated as France, Spain, Italy, Norway, the UK, and Australia; in contrast, the US, Japan, and Hong Kong had the lowest average scores globally.
Van Massdijk struck an optimistic note citing legislative efforts in many countries including the EU and Japan to improve equality. She also noted the growth in “gender lens” investing which was on the way to doubling since 2018, reaching $8bn, and touched on research findings showing that companies with better gender equality outperformed by those without equality by 3%.
In the UK the deadlines for reporting the gender pay gap this year are 30 March for most public authority employers and 4 April for private, voluntary and all other public authority employers.
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