This environmental and social (E&S) Briefing Note is designed to help fund managers quickly familiarise themselves with the topic of gender as it relates to investment. It is not intended to be a detailed technical guidance document.
Currently the scope of this Briefing Note is limited to issues of gender-based discrimination. However, it will expand over the coming months to include broader guidance on issues of gender and the private sector. To make suggestions or share tips and advice email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Formal specific technical guidance is provided at the end of this Briefing Note and in the Downloads & Reference Materials, including International Finance Corporation (IFC) 2012 Performance Standard 2: Working and Labour Conditions and IFC Good Practice Note: Non-Discrimination and Equal Opportunity.
This E&S Briefing Note provides an overview and general guidance. Fund managers should carefully consider each company based on its specific characteristics and circumstances including scale, location, technology, management capacity and commitment and track record. Risks, impacts and opportunities relating to a particular company or sector can also change over time for a number of reasons (e.g. changes in the applicable laws and regulations or in the type of the company’s activities or assets). Fund managers may need to engage external experts in some situations (see ‘Advice for fund managers’ section below).
CDC views gender equality and the promotion of equality of opportunity as fundamental to well-functioning economies, and therefore is something it aims to support through its investments.
It is important that all companies consider how business operations can impact men and women differently. Sometimes (particularly in emerging markets) there are local, cultural or national customs and practices, which inform recruitment and employment practices. Gender-based discrimination and inequality most frequently affects women. This Briefing Note focuses on how discrimination against women can be addressed, though it acknowledges that men can also be victims of gender-based discrimination. Investors and companies should apply sound judgment and decision-making to promote equality among men and women and to reduce or remove gender-based discrimination from the workplace.
Examples of gender-based discrimination include: allowing gender prejudice or stereotypes to influence the selection, promotion and advancement of employees; sexual harassment in the workplace; restriction of access to trade unions or worker's councils; and poor policies regarding maternity and childcare arrangements.
Sectors in which gender-based discrimination are likely to be particularly relevant are those that:
Good employment terms and conditions for all employees, irrespective of gender, ethnicity or other traits or background, provide companies with business benefits such as, a wider talent pool to recruit from, enhanced productivity and improved staff retention. There is also significant evidence to show that Board and executive level diversity (including gender, age, skills, sector and geographic experience) can improve decision-making and overall business performance.
Fund managers should assess the extent to which gender is factored into the business plan and operations of the company. Specifically:
At a minimum, all companies must comply with local regulations and should include within their employment and human resources policies, commitments to gender equality, as required within the ILO Core Conventions, particularly Convention 111 concerning Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation.
Fund managers should check that the company has not been prosecuted fined or otherwise exposed (for example in the media) for violating gender equality regulations.
There are a number of measures hat companies can implement to promote gender equality in the workplace. Some measures are listed below. Fund managers should assess which policies the company follows, and which it might be required to adopt to prevent gender-based discrimination.
Creating a supportive management culture
Senior management commitment plays a key role in creating and maintaining a non-discrimination culture in the company. Fund managers should take this into account when assessing companies’ approach and practices regarding non-discrimination.
Implementation of non-discrimination policy - Assigning roles and responsibilities
To ensure proper implementation of the non-discrimination policy the company should have assigned clear responsibility and accountability to an identified executive manager or member of its human resources team. Fund managers should check that the company has an appropriate non-discrimination policy in place and has assigned responsibility for it.
The company should also have a plan and operational guidelines to ensure that the policy is properly implemented. Implementation should be monitored and reported on at management and Board level. Some companies may also report on gender issues through their external reporting or through regular newsletters to employees or stakeholders.
Recruitment and retention
Terms of employment
Working conditions and accommodation
Companies should provide adequate ablutions and sanitary facilities for women that are separate from male facilities.
Where worker accommodation is provided this should be safe, secure and segregated.
Fund managers should assess whether workers groups and/or collectives and/or unions represent both men and women’s interests and include female representation. If this is not the case, fund managers should work with companies and the relevant parties to address the issue.
Companies should implement an accessible, confidential and fair grievance mechanism. Its procedures should enable women to report workplace grievances (including incidences of intimidation and sexual harassment) and have a process to address them effectively.
Further information and guidance