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Gender signals: improving trends but test the data

March 8 marks International Woman’s Day. French asset manager La Financière Responsable (LFR) explains how it assesses gender issues for corporate structures, as part of its Ecosociale® Footprint analysis.

Gender issues in the workplace often spark passionate discussions but we base our views on precise and quantified analysis of each stock and sector. In the three stock universes we monitor -- the FCP LFR Euro Développement Durable, the CAC 40 and the Euro Stoxx 50 – there is a ‘grouping’ at around 37%, of women in the workforce.

In our own portfolio, there has been a slight drop in the percentage of women employed in the companies we hold, from 39.0% of the total workforce in 2012, to 36.1% in 2015. This stems from five companies in the technology, and the industrial goods and services sectors that have not so far disclosed this data.

Female employment of these companies is lower than the indices at between 24% and 35% of the total workforce in 2015, thus lowering the average of the LFR Euro Développement Durable Fund. Response rates on gender are improving. In 2015, the rate for companies was 93.8% for this indicator, compared to 65.6% in 2012.

To analyze this indicator in greater depth, we have cross-referenced the measure with the business strategy of the LFR LFR Euro Développement Durable Fund. We find that companies that have adopted cost-volume strategies employ more women (38.1% in 2015), unlike other strategies – cost leadership, differentiation and focus -- defined by economist Michael Porter in his influential work on competitive advantage.

Is this group therefore more ‘virtuous’ because of its gender profile? We know that female employment accounts for a good part of youth employment, and t is also less expensive, so we do question such motivations. But it is not our responsibility to condemn, rather to note. By making known the facts, we leave it to corporate leaderships to correct what should be. The publication of the measure is sufficient and constitutes an "act of engagement".

What about the place of women in management? This information, which is difficult to obtain, is now becoming more common. The response rate of companies to the questionnaire that feeds the Empreinte Ecosociale® reaches for the LFR Euro Développement Durable Fund 100% in 2015 for the Board of Directors (75% in 2012) and 93.8% for the Executive Committee (68.8% in 2012).

In 2015, the proportion of women on the boards of companies of the LFR Euro Développement Durable Fund was 30%, about the same level as the companies of the Euro Stoxx 50, but lower than those of the CAC 40, where it is 35.6%.

It should be noted that the percentage of women on the Board of Directors is higher for French companies (36.4% for the French companies of LFR Euro Développement Durable and 38.8% for those of the Euro Stoxx 50). In executive committees, female representation remains low but has increased in recent years. The level varies by sector, ranging from 6.4% (financial corporations) to 10.3% (consumer goods) for LFR Euro Développement Durable companies.

Gender representation is an indicator which will be carefully monitored in future Empreinte Ecosociale® studies.


La Financiere Responsible is a specialist ESG asset manager with an award-winning approach to integrating financial and extra financial analysis. Investors and analysts are sometimes unsure as to what constitutes extra financial information, and how it should be interpreted. This Blog is part of a series where LFR explains its analytical processes.

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