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You Should Be Investing In Women

30/09/2015 6:08 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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When I first studied political science one rule was impressed upon me: we are all inherently selfish.

That is not necessarily bad, as our selfishness depends upon the situation. It does not prevent us from empathy. It is more about protecting our keep and maintaining a quality standard for ourselves.

With this is mind, most of us think we are pretty good with investing our money. Whether we sit on blue chips or prefer risk, each of us reckon we are onto something. But we are ignoring a certain capacity to maximise our own investments and the economy.

Women.

The pursuit of gender equality is one of the great economic opportunities of our time.

I, like many, can get bored of the so-called business case for diversity and gender equality. It is simple: if you are ignoring half the talent you can only be half as good. When it comes to investing money more and more of us are wanting to walk the talk.

To achieve gender equality, this is becoming easier.

Research from the New York-based Catalyst has found that companies with three or more women in leadership roles have 42 percent better return on sales, 53 percent better return on equity and a 66 percent better return on invested capital.

They are some good numbers to take heed of.

Further to this, the Grattan Institute posits that if Australian women's workforce participation rose to that of Canada's women our GDP would grow by $25 billion.

Beyond the annals of research, leading investment bank Morgan Stanley is putting this on the ground. Their Parity Portfolio investment stream has listened to the strong research base on women's importance in the economy and is applying it.

This allows investors to back companies with three or more women on their board. They do not compromise on financial standards and are seeing exceptional, market-leading returns. The program has worked so well it has sparked competitors and inspired others to follow their lead in Europe and here in Australia.

Bankers and finance academics get concerned by these programs as it can exempt investors from the full rewards of the market. In the same way that some people don't want to invest in tobacco companies, I don't want to invest in a company that does not value the breadth and depth of diversity in society.

What the evidence is clearly showing us is that that it should not be a concern for investors. Contemporary knowledge shows us that a diverse team and leadership gives us exceptional financial rewards, and builds a more cohesive society.

The data is so strong that having women in decision-making roles is good for business and the economy that avoiding diversity is bad business. It's a throwback to and fails to consider the modern workforce and needs of society.

But women are missing from the decision-making tables in Australian business. Earlier this year I found that there were more men named Peter and Michael than women who lead big companies. That's an exceptionally narrow view of talent.

As investors, and we all are with our retirement savings and superannuation, we should demand the highest possible returns.

So the next time your receive mail for a company you have shares in look at their executive and board. If you don't see a decent number of women there -- ask questions.

It is in the economic, social and moral interest of everyone involved that more women reach that level.

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