Long reads

The future of ESGtech: Goal 5 - Gender equality

Hamish Monk

Hamish Monk

Reporter, Finextra

Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. This is an extract from Finextra's The Future of ESGTech 2022 report.

Focus Target 5.5: Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.

Financial institutions have the potential to promote gender equality by channelling capital toward, for example, the improvement of education and health programmes. With a focus on inclusion, projects can be financed that politically, economically, and socially empower women.

In order to discern which programmes are worth supporting, and to what extent investments are having an impact, holistic data on women and girls around the world is critical. Unfortunately, there are gaps in this data. According to the 2021 World Development Report, ‘Data for Better Lives’, only 41% of low-income countries (LICs) and lower-middle-income countries (LMICs) have data on informal jobs disaggregated by sex. Monitoring and improving gender equity in the professional sphere, through financing, demands regular and timely global employment data. Without it, impacts are tough to track.

Fortunately, there are initiatives working to build data and knowledge bases, in order to help the financial community better understand how to solve the fifth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). The World Bank Group (WBG), for instance, created the Human Capital Index (HCI), which “quantifies the contribution of health and education to the productivity of the next generation of workers.” Countries can use it to assess how much income they are foregoing as a result of Human Capital gaps, and how much faster they can turn these losses into gains if they act now. According to the HCI, it conducts a “credible measurement of education and health outcomes locally, nationally, and globally.”

Financial players can use these kinds of ESG data as an analytical basis to triage their gender-sensitive investments, and drive women’s well-being, education quality, and professional equality around the world. On a broader, and equally important, level, comprehensive human capital measurement also boosts policy makers’ awareness of the importance of investment.Goal 5: Gender EqualityAchieve gender equality and empower all women and girlsFocus Target 5.5: Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.

Informed by data similar to that provided by the HCI, the European Investment Bank (EIB) launched a project in November 2019, called SheInvest, which aimed to supercharge gender equality and economically empower women in Africa. Initially planning to mobilize €1 billion of investment in services, products, and sustainable infrastructure, the initiative doubled this commitment in 2021.

Informed by data, it continues to direct capital toward women’s equality on the continent.The EIB’s first loan under the SheInvest initiative, to the Uganda Development Bank (UDB), was worth €15 million – one-third of which went to supporting women-owned and women-run businesses in the region. To identify candidates, the UDB applied ESG information alongside 2X Challenge’s investment criteria on female entrepreneurship, leadership, and employment.The problem of global gender inequality is as much a social crisis as it is a data issue. By bridging the gaps in our knowledge, financial players can more effectively direct capital to where it is needed, and crucially, monitor the outcomes.

ACTION FOR 2022: Build better, gender-aware data systems to necessitate considerable financial and human capital.

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