Gender Equality and ESG: Women’s Rights in Business

Published on:
by Aaroshi Rathor
Image of white businesswoman with folded arms in boardroom setting

Women's attempts to get full-time jobs have frequently been hampered by cultural and traditional social conventions. While ESG has acted as a catalyst for introducing diversity, equity, and inclusion of women in the workplace and thereby supporting a balanced workforce, the fact remains that major social and economic inequities have once again come to the forefront as a result of the pandemic and the ongoing climate crisis. 

So, what actions should be taken for gender equality? How can ESG promote women's rights and gender equality in business?

ESG boosts the economy 

One of the fundamental ways ESG may promote gender equality is by fostering inclusiveness and diversification of the workforce by hiring women. In an alarming report by the World Bank on women’s participation in the workplace, it was found that nearly 2.4 billion women of working age do not have equal economic opportunity and 178 countries maintain legal barriers that hinder them from full economic participation. 

ESG helps in ensuring gender equality and giving women their basic rights in the workplace by making diversity, equity and inclusion mandatory in all businesses for an equal and balanced representation of men and women. It also helps in fulfilling one of the most significant UN SDGs that must be accomplished by 2030, which is gender equality. Giving women equal employment opportunities and pay, as well as including them in regional and global decision-making processes, will result in sustained economic growth.   

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ESG promotes women’s rights and business performance 

ESG is assisting in the advancement of women's rights as well as corporate profitability through gender-equal work policies. According to a report by McKinsey, it was found that companies with a higher gender diversity ratio have a 21% higher chance of higher earnings and profits as compared to the rest of the companies that were not gender inclusive. 

Another study by S&P Global Market found that compared to the market average, companies with female CFOs are more profitable and have delivered better stock price performance. The study also revealed that businesses with a high proportion of women on their boards of directors have been more successful and larger than businesses with a lower proportion of women. 

Therefore, businesses with a wide mix of genders not only support gender equality but also see improved financial results over time, resulting in a business that is not only inclusive but also successful in the long run.  

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ESG helps gender equality through positive company brand image 

Potential investors, clients, and shareholders are now familiar with the term ESG, and many institutional investors are looking at companies with a gender-diverse workforce to assess how the company will handle ESG risks and opportunities. In this approach, ESG contributes to gender equality by ensuring that women are represented at all levels of executive leadership, from entry-level jobs to seats on corporate boards. 

This helps not only advance women's rights in the workplace but also develop a strong brand image for the firm, luring in fresh talent and retaining a talented workforce. Businesses should implement gender equality policies and practices to encourage long-term engagement from more women. Giving women the same managerial options and flexibility as men promotes more diversified leadership and increases long-term retention.    

ESG provides women with equal health and work policies 

ESG plays a vital role in advancing fair labour practices, employee rights, corporate transparency, executive compensation, and gender and racial fairness, in addition to holding businesses accountable for their company's environmental actions and sustainability programmes. 

Through ESG ratings, businesses can focus on all three areas, promoting women's rights in the workplace and putting in place practices and policies that assist women in finding paid employment. Flexible work schedules, family leave, menstruation leave, and strong no-sexual harassment policies are a few examples of how to ensure that women have a safe and healthy atmosphere so they can put in 100% productivity in their work. 

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ESG and gender equality are linked since the majority of business-related rights for women fall under the social component of ESG. The foundations of ESG initiatives, including improved corporate governance, board diversity, responsible investment, and the positive effects of inclusive and open management styles that recognise where the potential for environmental sustainability lies, are equality of opportunity and a culture of inclusion. 

While it has been repeatedly emphasised that gender equality is a fundamental right and a key sustainable development goal, it is crucial for businesses to understand that these issues should not simply be used as a marketing ploy to draw in investors and customers. 

Instead, there is a pressing need to ensure that all employees are treated fairly and equally in the workplace if we want to move towards sustainable economies and a sustainable society.     

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