Elevating women in the workplace, on every level, should be a strategic priority for businesses looking to navigate volatility, build resilient workforces, rethink access to capital, and address the underserved. Remaining competitive while also meeting net zero and other climate-related mandates is the challenge of the century. Three important points that underscore the findings in this report to help organizations set the strategies to achieve these goals:
Equity and climate risk are interrelated.
Yes, climate change will bring more inequity, but inequity may also lead to increased climate risk, as well as damaging effects on well-intentioned efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Navigating volatility with climate risk modeling should swiftly catch up to this reality. Businesses should take note that success lies in the new financial and technological constructs as well as in the ingenuity and perspectives of peoples and externalities who have traditionally been sidelined. Some resulting food for thought:
- Key performance indicators (KPIs) for climate action and net zero efforts should overlap with those for DEI
- Climate and sustainability departments should collaborate with DEI departments; or separate leadership or departments could be developed for climate equity work
- Ensure the leaders in your climate and DEI teams have access to leadership and the authority needed to succeed
Data of interest, related to these points above, from the recent WiCT+ survey:
% respondents who agree (strongly or somewhat) that their climate team has extensive access to C-Suite
Climate + DEI Teams
% who agree (somewhat or strongly) that their organizations' climate and DEI teams work together extensively
As tools and strategies emerge to measure climate-related risks and reduce emissions, companies should consider assessing these with an eye to equity and explore the myriad opportunities to invest in women.
Questions such as those below can help companies in these assessments:
- Who designed and built these tools? Are they built by teams advancing diversity of thought and skills?
- What may be the unintended consequences of climate work tackled in a narrow way, by a small subset of people, or by people who may not represent those who will be using these tools on-the-ground?
- How can companies innovate to reduce the risks they face from inequity throughout the ranks, and cultivate inclusive and interdisciplinary problem-solving?
Succeeding at the above to build resilient workforces (and indeed, all of the recommendations in this report) begins with learning. Seeking sources of information and training for teams beyond that which they might usually receive, is a good place to start. And there are many great resources: The National Minority Supplier Development Council’s (NMSDC) groundbreaking work in the field of minority business enterprises (MBEs) certification and investment, and the Gender Responsive Procurement work of the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), are just two examples.
Markets cannot serve what they cannot see. The need for gender-specific data, across all forms of business, is mission-critical.
To leverage gender for its triple bottom line potential with benefits to profitability, people and planet, the first and most fundamental obstacle is the dire lack of gender-specific data. Only with the full and clear picture that data provides can we properly address the risks and opportunities found at the nexus of climate change and gender equity to better address the underserved.
In most industries, gender-specific data across economic indicators are simply not collected. Even where collected, longitudinal data does not exist due to the relative newness of the field. The result is an incomplete picture of gender disparities. Particularly in the banking sector, this lack of data means that banks are not aware that they aren’t serving the female market, which widens the gap.
Lack of data means a lack of awareness, which translates to reduced funding. Sustainable investing flows were estimated at $40 trillion in 2020, but, of that, only $17 to $20 billion went into investments with a gender lens, excluding microfinance flows, development finance institutions, and privately placed bonds, according to GenderSmart. This is, in part, because gender finance is behind ESG as an investment theme. Therefore, rethinking access to capital is vital to closing this gap.
Many global entities, including UN Women and 2X Gender and Climate Finance Taskforce, have launched initiatives that make the need for gender-specific data on the impacts of disaster clear. The insurance industry possesses great potential to help. But, regulatory barriers can stymie efforts.
Layering social considerations atop risk factors gives a fuller picture of risks and opportunities posed by climate change. For accurate climate modeling into the future, for property, economy, human lives, and human wellbeing, you need both the view of the hazard and the view of the vulnerability.”
Elizabeth Henderson Senior Managing Director, Aon
However, as climate impacts worsen, a gender-agnostic approach would not consider the outsized impacts of climate events on women, underestimating both the volatility of scenarios as well as opportunities to serve this market. Including gender statistics in basic underwriting models, where allowed by law, is a good first step.
Ultimately, the business case for gender equity is compelling on its own merits, even without any sort of moral considerations. More diverse and equitable organizations are more resilient organizations, able to adapt and thrive under rapidly changing conditions.
If I look at the legislation in the EMEA region, especially for the Netherlands, for instance, the allowance for linking gender to the data is becoming less and less.”
Annelieke van Mens Managing Consultant, Aon