«Our gender diversity strategy is not only about a fairer society, but also about a more sustainable economy»
Ms. Varlet, Mirova is a leading name in the funds industry when it comes to sustainable investing. In 2019, you launched a strategy dedicated to gender diversity. What is the rationale behind this?
Gender diversity is key to transition into a fairer society: in fact, it’s one of the sustainable development goals set by the United Nations. Yet, the transition towards a gender equal workplace is moving at a slower pace than it should: according to the World Economic Forum¹ it would actually take 257 years to close the gender gap in the workplace. Added to that, women being absent from upper-level positions in the workforce calls for an unbreakable glass ceiling.
That’s a pity however because studies clearly show a positive correlation between gender diversity and the financial and operational performance of a company².
That’s why we decided to launch this global equity strategy on gender diversity³, which invests in companies promoting women’s access to top management.
What criteria do you use to analyse companies to see if they fit into your concept?
We use a robust process combining the best of both worlds between quantitative and qualitative criteria. On one hand, our quantitative criteria look for high women participation in the executive commitee, for women with a CEO or CFO position, and also for a good balance between women representation in the executive committee and the global workforce. On the other hand, the qualitative criteria aim to assess exemplary gender diversity policies and measure focusing on relevant areas to accelerate female access to leadership according to Mirova.
In addition to the specific filter, all the companies are analyzed through our usual process: an ESG⁴ analysis, leveraging our proprietary rating, and of course a financial and fundamental lens.⁵
How many names and from which countries do you have in the database?
When we first thought about launching the strategy, we were hesitating between an European and a global approach. But since we have strict criteria, and most of all that gender diversity has no borders, we decided to go for international!
Our universe is made of more than 1,100 stocks and 40 countries, to allow us to seek companies with a sound economic model and who put women at the top, anywhere they can be found⁶.
How do you stand out?
There are various approaches to gender diversity as an investment theme. Ours focuses on seeking social impact, but also a broader sustainable impact with the obtention of the French SRI label⁷, including an environmental impact as the portfolio aims to be aligned with a 2C° scenario⁸. Our gender diversity strategy is not only about a fairer society, but also about a more sustainable economy. Moreover, our ESG and gender diversity related criteria answer to a strict methodology.
Secondly, the strategy invests in listed companies in developed countries for the most part. But we also give a portion of our management fees to ONU Femmes France, in order to finance women-led projects in emerging countries through a partnership with ONU Femmes⁹.
Last but not least, we think that gender diversity and breaking the glass ceiling is everyone’s business: we led an investor coalition to support the Women’s Empowerment Principles¹⁰, signed by 66 investors, and are members of the 30 percent France investors club, in order to promote women in the top management within the SBF 120.
Accordingly, we engage with the companies we invest in. We have regular talks with them and encourage them to set some clear goals in terms of gender diversity but also to show more transparency. We also call for dedicated plans with key indicators monitoring, trainings, and work life balance measures. Many companies set these kinds of measures in place and confirm their efficiency in promoting women and reducing inequalities. By engaging with different stakeholders and multiplying gender diversity linked initiatives, we believe that we contribute to shattering the glass ceiling!
The result is the «Women Leaders strategy¹¹». Can you say a few words about it?
The «Women Leaders strategy» invests in international equities and seeks financial performance and social and environmental impact. This solution aims to identify the companies promoting women’s access to top management positions while presenting a sound business model. In order to do so, it applies a robust process combining quantitative and qualitative criteria. The result is a conviction based portfolio, with around 50 holdings and a low turnover.
|¹||Source: World Economic Forum, 2019, Global Gender gap report 2020|
|²||The information provided reflects Mirova’s opinion|
|³||Each investment is subject to risks, including the risk of capital loss|
|⁴||Environment, Social, Governance|
|⁵||The information provided reflects Mirova’s opinion / the situation as of the date of this document and are subject to change without notice. For more information on our methodologies, please refer to our Mirova website: www.mirova.com/en/research|
|⁶||The information provided reflects Mirova’s opinion / the situation as of the date of this document and are subject to change without notice|
|⁷||References to a ranking, prize or label do not anticipate the future results of the latter, or of the fund, or of the manager|
|⁸||Internal limits non-binding at the date of this document and not mentioned in the sub-fund regulatory documentation, subject to change by Mirova without prior notice. Corresponds to the action plan put in place to respect the Paris Agreement, that is to say the increase that should not be exceeded for the average temperature of the planet between 1850 and 2100. For more information on our methodologies, please refer to our Mirova website: www.mirova.com/en/research|
|⁹||UN Women: www.unwomen.org/en|
|¹⁰||The Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) are a set of seven principles offering guidance to business on how to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace, marketplace and community and has been established by UN Global Compact and UN Women|
|¹¹||Each investment is subject to risks, including the risk of capital loss|
Link to disclaimer
Soliane Varlet has been an equity portfolio manager at Mirova/Ostrum AM since 2008. She began her career in 2000 as a sell-side equity analyst, specialized on the media sector at CM-CIC Securities. She then joined Ostrum Asset Management as a buy-side equity analyst in 2005. She manages the Euro funds since 2013; and Women Leaders fund since its inception in 2019. Soliane Varlet graduated from ESC Reims CESEM (now Neoma Business School) and holds a master's degree in Banking and Finance (DESS Banque-Finance) from Lyon 2. She holds the SFAF diploma (French Society for Financial Analysts).