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Jul 10, 2019

Boosting equality via index inclusion

Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index helps companies see how they fare on gender equality

Many approaches are taken to measure diversity and equality but the benefits of being on an index – in this case, the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index (GEI) – were explored at the recent Bloomberg Sustainable Business Summit in London.

The index uses a number of detailed metrics related to a company’s approach to gender equality, such as whether there are women on the board or in the CEO role, as well as wider company gender statistics, benefits, gender-conscious product offerings and community support.

Sharon Murray, global director of culture and inclusion at UK cosmetics company Avon, explained her company’s rationale for being on the index: ‘We entered the index for the first time last year. Part of the reason for us was [that it seemed] a bit of a no-brainer given that we are a female-focused brand.

‘As on organization, we are about opening up Avon: opening up our overall business and opening up our values to our customers, but also about opening up our talent opportunity – we really believe diversity and inclusion are major drivers of our business.

‘So the Bloomberg GEI has proved a useful tool for us, allowing us to take stock and look at a number of measures across our organization to see how we are doing across gender equality – because we know we don’t have it all yet; there is more to be done.’

But is there any risk to a company being on the index, given that it will open the company up to scrutiny of its equality practices throughout the business, and the possible implications and findings this may bring? That being the case, why does a company choose to take that risk?

Murray replied: ‘One of the things we believe is that what gets measured gets done. Being transparent and sharing this information with your shareholders and stakeholders is vitally important.

‘For us, the transparency element helps us to validate the things internally we know we do well and should be proud of – and being part of the index also helps us with our brand and internal perspective, so it is showing the world what we do across all the metrics and helps instill a sense of pride across our employee base. And there is also the benchmarking element: where we do well and where we could do better.’

Murray was asked what surprises the data has thrown up. ‘When you operate across 50 countries – as we do – there is a range of different regulations and legislations and cultural norms,’ she said. ‘What was hugely helpful to us in completing the index is the statistics it reveals, but also looking at the policy and practices we benchmark across our organization.

‘So it gave us a really good snapshot of countries we can learn from, but also the ability [to see] cultures and countries that are not so advanced on gender equality, and that has resulted in us thinking about what we can share here.’