Capital and Women in the Workforce

If there is a focus exclusively on net zero, there is a risk that those societal issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion are disregarded or not holistically considered.”
Jennifer O'Neill Associate Partner, ESG and Responsible Investment, Aon

Empowering women as asset allocators in the workforce is a good place to start when it comes to rethinking access to capital. However, there is a long way to go.

Some of the capital-related disparities that create business risks during a climate event could be avoided if there were more diverse perspectives at the top of the value chain, where money is allocated.”
Jennifer O'Neill Associate Partner, ESG and Responsible Investment, Aon

In 2020, 13.4 percent of S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies had female CFOs, compared to 8.7 percent in 2010. Only 90 of the 674 CFO positions at these companies were helmed by women, a sharp contrast to the 500-plus men serving in the role. In 2021, the proportion of women in leadership roles within financial services firms was 24 percent; while this is projected to rise to 28 percent by 2030, the number is still below parity. The percentage of global fund managers who are female has been about 14 percent since 2000, according to research from Morningstar and the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute. According to the organization, the number of CFA Institute members in the United States who are women has also remained low—at just below 20 percent.

The risks associated with so few women in finance and leadership roles could play out in myriad ways, including loss of customer loyalty and market share.

Women now drive the world economy, according to the Harvard Business Review. Globally, women control $20 trillion in annual consumer spending. That figure could climb as high as $28 trillion in the next five years. “Their $13 trillion in total yearly earnings could reach $18 trillion in the same period. In aggregate, women represent a growth market bigger than China and India combined—more than twice as big, in fact” reads the article.

Yet, the article continues, by and large companies are doing a poor job of anticipating these market needs. In extensive surveys conducted, “women feel vastly underserved. Despite the remarkable strides in market power and social position that they have made in the past century, they still appear to be undervalued in the marketplace and underestimated in the workplace.”

According to the Women’s Empowerment Principles, when women are aware that a business is dedicated to gender equity and supports women-owned companies, 78 percent will try the business’s products or services; 80 percent will display increased brand loyalty; and 50 percent will give the company a second chance if the product or service falls short of original expectations.

Some surveys further suggest that women are more motivated than men to decrease their carbon dioxide emissions and alter other consumer behaviors as a result of climate change. While more data is needed, without gender parity it is hard to imagine that companies can and will do a better job of understanding and meeting the needs of female customers, employees, and stakeholders.

By and large, businesses have a long way to go vis-a-vis gender parity and financial authority in the workforce, especially in fields such as finance and technology. Programs such as Deloitte’s Women Executives in Finance initiative are a place to start, with more potential solutions addressed at the end of this report.

Departments may turn to Central Casting to send over someone who looks like the last person who was successful. But the right person might look different or have an atypical educational or employment background; they might add a lot in terms of problem solving and differentiated thinking.”
Meredith Jones, ESG Expert

Launched in 2012 in the UK, Aon’s Apprenticeship Program is an example of a program designed to overcome systemic challenges in hiring and mentoring diverse talent. The program, which was expanded to the US in 2017, is offered across the firm's solution lines and corporate functions—providing opportunities for diverse professionals to develop skills in the workplace while earning as they learn.

The apprenticeship program has helped Aon build a talent pipeline of highly skilled and diverse professionals. As part of Aon's global commitments to further embed inclusion and diversity into the firm's culture, the program helps build a more resilient workforce and drive better outcomes for our clients and greater impact in our communities.”
Shay Robinson Public Affairs Manager, Global Eco-Systems and Apprenticeship Program, Aon

Rethinking Access to Capital

3. Access to Capital and the Supply Chain

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