A Woman’s Place: equality in the 21st century

Welcome to a ‘A Woman’s Place’, a research series from the Aberdeen Standard Research Institute. Focusing on the often overlooked ‘S’ of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance), the authors set out to find what drives differences in female participation in the workforce and highlight why D&I policy really matters for investors.

There is a clear ethical argument for greater equality in the workforce. But there’s a powerful efficiency argument too. Increasing diversity and inclusivity in the workforce can lift incomes and growth by making better use of human capital. In a world where populations are aging and labour productivity growth sluggish, a stronger diversity and inclusion (D&I) corporate and government policy agenda could provide a much needed shot in the arm for the global economy.

Of course D&I goes beyond gender equality. We had hoped to cover race, socioeconomic background and sexual orientation at both the macro and micro level. However, the research uncovered just how limited the data is regarding inequalities at a company and country level.

For an overview of the research’s highlights, you can download our executive summary. If you’re looking for a more technical run down of our findings then please download our full working paper.

Download executive summary
Download full working paper

The 5 Key takeaways

We analysed data for 31 countries from 2002 to 2016 and our findings suggest five clear actions for policymakers and companies wanting to boost female participation. Each finding forms its own edition to the ‘A Woman’s Place’ Series and will be released incrementally throughout the year. Check back for future releases.

  1. Ensure that men have access to paternity leave

    Do more to incentivise men to take that leave so that the burden of child-related career breaks is more evenly shared.

    Read our full findings here

  2. Reform taxation systems

    Reduce tax wedges for second earners and sole parents to address the unfair care/work trade-off that women face.

    Full research paper coming soon

  3. Consider both the quantity and quality of female work

    Part-time work and flexible short-term employment is important for women to stay connected with the workforce.

    Full research paper coming soon

  1. Strengthen the performance and resilience of the overall economy

    Reduce cyclicality of potential growth and strengthen labour markets to facilitate greater overall participation.

    Full research paper coming soon

  2. Report more and higher quality data

    Encourage firms to release this information so that we can monitor what companies are doing and understand what really works in terms of improving D&I within firms.

    Full research paper coming soon

The ASIRI Gender Equality Index

Using insights from our work on women’s participation in the labour force, we’ve created an index that scores and ranks 29 developed countries on gender equality, in terms of macroeconomic fundamentals, policy and empowerment.

The Gender Equality Index (GEI) tells us where countries are doing well and where they need to improve when it comes to maximising female potential in the workforce.

We believe that countries with more progressive gender policies and higher GEI scores are likely to be better equipped to deal with issues like aging populations and slowing productivity growth.

For pension funds and other institutions looking at long-term investment risks, labour supply constraints and the consequences of aging populations are fundamental problems. Gender equality is a fundamental factor that investors should consider when assessing where these risks are most acute.

The GEI seeks to provide a basic framework for this analysis. GEI doesn’t replace long-term growth or inflation forecasting. But, by adding the dimension of gender diversity, incorporating it provides a more holistic picture of labour supply and productivity. This is helpful when looking 10 or 20 years ahead to consider which countries are vulnerable to weak productivity and potential growth and which are likely to flourish, which should benefit the growth and investment environment.

Read more about The ASIRI Gender Equality Index.

Meet the authors