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September 20, 2019

Women in IR: Where does your company stand on achieving gender parity?

Written by Chloe Barteau

On September 12, I attended IR Magazine’s 3rd annual Women in IR event hosted at BNY Mellon’s offices in NYC. Below I’ll share with you some of my key learnings gained from a collaborative discussion spanning the topics of gender and pay equality, IR, and communications. Today, it would be difficult to find someone has not heard about the topics of feminism, pay equality, and women in the workforce. How are these issues relevant to you and your company?

Understand the reality 

We know it's trendy to talk about the power and advantage women bring to the workforce, but what’s the reality? First, it’s important to note that this issue isn’t simply a trend. It wouldn’t be advisable to categorize women in the workplace along the likes of frosted tips and crimped hair. Women are taking the workforce by storm, and they’re here to stay, but there is still work to be done. Research conducted by IR Magazine finds that the IR profession has a 50/50 gender split, but 67 percent of senior positions are held by men, leaving 33 percent held by women.

Not only is this disparity a problem for women, but it’s also bad for your company’s well-being. Ignoring or insufficiently addressing a topic of such magnitude can create a great risk for your company. As Patricia Lenkov, Founder and President of Agility Executive Search, said in IR magazine,

“Like cyber-security concerns and competitive threats, the implications are pervasive and unpredictable. All stakeholders, including shareholders, customers and the public at large are in such a state of reactivity that this risk must be attended to by senior leaders as well as Board of Directors right now.”

Taking action is key to minimizing risk for your corporation.

Understand your audience

Given the nature of their job, it’s not uncommon to find IR professionals with a siloed focus on numbers and financials. The IR profession, however, is broadening its focus and recognizing the importance of other factors. As Joe Keefe, President and CEO, Pax World Funds, writes in a HuffPost guest column, “Gender Equality As an Investment Concept”:

“Investors are hungry for strategies whose trajectories point not toward more financial bubbles, and the crises that inevitably follow, but toward long-term growth that is sustainable in the true sense of the term — the creation of durable, enduring value.”

This hunger for strategies that transcend numbers includes an interest in gender parity. Investors use information such as numbers that prove a company’s commitment to gender parity to make important decisions. And not only do these statistics inform investors, but a lack thereof has an impact, as well. A company’s failure to properly disclose such information can be enough alone to cause wariness in investors that in turn could have a negative impact on the company.

Bridging the two

If you understand both the reality of the situation and your audience, then you have a good grip on how the topic of gender parity in the workforce can directly affect yourself and your business. Now, it’s very likely that your company has already taken great strides in closing the gender gap, which is commendable. The Women in IR event underscored the need to be proactive, even if no one asks you to embrace gender parity Speaking on the Women in IR panel, Jocelyn Perry, Executive Vice President and CFO of Fortis, mentioned conducting an audit of the potential gender gap, regardless of a request or concern. This idea again ties back in risk minimization and how companies can continue to do better for their employees, investors and consumers alike.

We also have to keep in mind our audience, as noted above. IR professionals and their audiences are numbers focused. So it’s important to discuss gender parity in terms that will resonate with shareholders, such as the detrimental corporate impact a company’s failure to properly disclose information about its gender-focused initiatives. In addition, it’s important to articulate the narrative in a way that your audience will hear it, across the most effective digital channels that will get their attention -- because if we don’t, is there even a narrative to tell?

Contact Investis Digital

At Investis Digital, we help businesses create and share powerful narratives about themselves, including how they embrace purposed-led endeavors such as gender parity. We know how to connect a narrative across multiple channels to maximize the impact of your brand narrative for multiple audiences, including shareholders. Contact us.

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