For those of us committed to sustainability, 2016 was a year of drama. There were some great highs, including the entry into force of the Paris Agreement, in which most countries committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And then there was the election, which brought climate skeptics into senior Administration positions.
Many investors have long recognized the benefits associated with gender diversity—including superior financial performance, improved decision-making and oversight—and have engaged in a variety of initiatives aimed at increasing the representation of women across all professional levels, from entry level positions to the C-suite and boardroom.
What is the experience of a woman in corporate America today? She probably hears a lot about diversity initiatives from the leadership of her company, but she probably has precious little to show it, save a smattering of diversity days, mentoring programs, employee advocacy groups, and other gender programs. Boards and senior leadership at her company remain stubbornly male, and women continue to earn less than men for comparable work.
It may be trite to say "money is power"... but money is power, particularly in a capitalist society. As professional women come to terms in these closing days of 2016 that our progress in business has slowed to a crawl—despite all of the energy around it over the past few years—they will look for new means to move forward.
Despite a rock-solid business case for gender diversity in the workplace, many companies still lag far behind when it comes to advancing women in leadership. The problem of improving gender diversity can be daunting and the question of how to get started is enough to send many seasoned executives into a tailspin.
Family-friendly workplaces have a lot going for them, including basic decency and fairness, advancing the rights of women, and promoting the health and well-being of children, just to name a few major benefits. But they also offer measurable advantages when it comes to advancing businesses themselves and the business sector as a whole.
Smart beta and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) integration have both gathered strong momentum, with significant asset growth in strategies using each discipline. Multifactor smart beta strategies, with their longer-term focus and factor diversification, provide a natural platform for the integration of ESG.