Closing the Gender Gap Could Unlock $300 Billion, Study Finds

Gender-lens investing aimed at advancing gender equality around the globe could help create nearly $300 billion in market impact by 2025, a report from the United Nations Foundation and BNY Mellon finds.

The report, Return on Equality: Investment Opportunities to Help Close the Global Gender Gap (28 pages, PDF), found that, in addition to the social impact, investing in Sustainable Development Goal 5 — achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls — would create significant global consumer and market impacts for investors in five sectors — child care ($140 billion), water ($80 billion), energy ($40 billion), telecommunications ($20 billion), and contraception ($5 billion). Currently, 290 million children under the age of three do not have access to child care; 663 million people lack access to clean water; 1.2 billion people lack electricity at home; 200 million fewer women than men own mobile phones; and 225 million women have an unmet need for contraception.

The study also found that gender-lens investing vehicles which promote gender equality through products and services are uncommon. To address that gap, the report calls for institutional investors to incorporate a products-and-services approach into their existing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategies; for individual investors to shift investments toward companies that offer products and services that support gender equality, with a focus on companies that have committed to quantifiable goals or measures; and for asset managers to create new funds and financial instruments for institutional and individual investors focused on companies that support gender equality.

"The Sustainable Development Goals are designed to lift a billion people out of extreme poverty by 2030, but we won't get there if half the world's population is left on the sidelines," said UN Foundation deputy CEO Elizabeth Cousens. "From promoting diversity in their work forces to delivering products and services that empower women, the private sector has a critical role to play — and market gains to accrue —  in advancing gender equality."