Greater Reporting Needed on Equality to Close the Gender Gap
07 March 2016

​To coincide with International Women's Day on 8 March, GRI calls on organizations to help close the gender gap by increasing their reporting on gender equality.

“Although it feels like great strides have been made on gender equality on things like pay and women in leadership positions, the reality is that there is still a long way to go,” explains Alyson Slater, Director, Knowledge Unit, GRI. “For example, just 5.2% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, and the World Economic Forum predicts that, at the current rate, it will take until 2133 to achieve gender parity.”

Gender equality is intrinsically woven across multiple sustainable development challenges. For example, women produce more than 50% percent of the world’s food, but represent only 20% of land owners. The launch of the UN Sustainable Development Goals last year put gender equality firmly on the global agenda. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said at the UN Sustainable Development Summit, “We cannot achieve our 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development without full and equal rights for half of the world’s population, in law and in practice.”

Businesses have a crucial role to play in eliminating gender inequality. Establishing unbiased recruitment practices, investing in skills building and leadership training programs for women, expanding women-led business in supply chains, and providing benefits such as onsite childcare services and flexible hours are just some ways that businesses can help close the gender gap. Such practices can also lead to improved corporate performance: companies in the MSCI World Index with strong female leadership generated a Return on Equity of 10.1% per year compared with 7.4% for those without, according to research by MSCI in 2016.

Similarly, increasing numbers of investors today, particularly in the sustainable, responsible, and impact (SRI) investing field, are embracing ‘gender lens investing’ – the use of gender as a category of analysis in investment decision making (Trillium Investment, 2015). If women played an identical role in labor markets to that of men, it would generate at least $28 trillion extra in global annual GDP by 2025, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.

In order to manage their approach to gender equality, companies first need to know the facts. “The first step toward meaningful change is for companies to find out where they stand on gender equality today by looking at their data, using this information to inform policies and set goals, and then communicating on progress regularly,” explains Alyson Slater.

GRI provides the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting standards, used by thousands of organizations across nearly 100 countries. Gender equality is deeply embedded in GRI Standards, and is covered in 16 indicators within the GRI G4 Guidelines. One such indicator addressing gender parity is equal pay, which is important for GRI reporters: 53% of G4 reports in the GRI Disclosure Database highlight information on Economic Inclusion (G4-LA13).*  By reporting on such indicators, companies can address SDG 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, and include vital gender data in their strategic decision making. For companies in Europe, reporting becomes especially important: as of 2017, disclosing Board diversity will become mandatory for large companies following the implementation of the EU Directive (2014/95) on non-financial and diversity information disclosure.

To boost reporting on gender equality, GRI has developed capacity building workshops for companies, funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The workshops, which will be piloted in key emerging markets such as Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Indonesia this month, have been created by GRI in collaboration with BSR – a global nonprofit business network and consultancy dedicated to sustainability. The workshops will also be available as part of GRI’s E-Learning Program by mid-2016.

“Empowering women in the workplace means empowering the global business sector overall,” said Aditi Mohapatra, Director at BSR who oversees the organization’s work on women’s empowerment. “These capacity building workshops will provide practical guidance for companies working to ramp up and manage their approach to gender equality using GRI Standards, and ensure greater transparency along the way.”

Gender equality and reporting will also be addressed as a key topic at GRI’s Global Conference this May. The Breakfast Session: ‘Gender Equality and Sustainability Reporting’ is the first session to sell out, indicating the clear demand for the topic. Complex issues such as land ownership in emerging markets and human rights impacts in the business context, which also target gender issues, will be addressed in Conference sessions such as ‘Respect for land and forest rights, easier said than done?’ and ‘Corporate Human Rights Reporting, linking policy and practice’.

For more information on the GRI Global Conference, please contact GRI’s Communications Director, Rashmi van de Loenhorst:

*The data included here is based on GRI’s Sustainability Disclosure Database as of 1 March 2016. The data available in the database is collected by GRI in collaboration with its data partners and captures all reports of which GRI is aware.