07/03/2017 09:38 GMT | Updated 07/03/2018 05:12 GMT

How Stock Exchanges Can Advance Gender Equality

Gender equality is a fundamental human right.

Despite this:

  • Women across the globe take home just one tenth of income, while accounting for two thirds of working hours.
  • Girls and women have equal access to education in only 25 countries.
  • One in three women experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes.

In the UK, women lag their male peers on pay and senior management roles. A study by Credit Suisse finds that just 3.9% of CEOs in the CSG 3000 are women. It's been illegal to discriminate against women in the workplace since 1975 in the UK.

The moral case for achieving gender equality is clear.

There is also a business case. Studies by Morgan Stanley, McKinsey, EY, IMF and others, repeatedly find that addressing gender equality will unlock trillions of dollars of currently unrealised investment value.

This includes:

  • Increased female representation in leadership positions
  • Pay parity.
  • Family leave and flexible work options, which in turn will attract talent and boost productivity.

To mark International Women's Day, the UN's Sustainable Stock Exchanges initiative has published a review of stock exchange, investor and company practice on gender equality.

Over 60 of the world's stock exchanges have publicly committed to the SSE, including the London Stock Exchange. Stock exchanges are uniquely positioned to influence capital markets and so stock exchange interest in the Sustainable Development Goals is welcome. SDG 5, "achieve gender equality and empower women and girls", will require governments to act - but stock exchanges have a role to play too.

The report recommends increased transparency, improved listing standards and financial innovation, providing case studies across 13 markets.

In 1917, New York State held a referendum on women's suffrage. 100 years on and the job of achieving gender equality remains incomplete. At the current rate of progress, we will not close the gender pay gap until the 22nd century.

The case studies show that many exchanges already take action to address gender equality, but, perhaps inevitably, it's not enough. This report is a call to action to exchanges and their stakeholders. As we mark this year's international women's day, we hope this report will help exchanges to take up the challenge.