How Women Bridge the Gap Between Finance and the Environment
The more women take control of their personal finances, the better off the planet will be.
By Ellen Kennedy, Senior Sustainability Analyst, Calvert Investment Management, Inc.
Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to celebrate women’s growing involvement in two seemingly unrelated areas: environmental stewardship and financial markets. On the one hand, environmental organizations are increasingly pursuing engagement with women as a means to achieve their planet–saving missions. On the other hand, women are starting to close their long–standing lag in retirement investment compared to their male counterparts. (Please revisit “2014: The Year of Women’s Investment”.) What’s the bridge between the two? Women are significantly more likely than men to include environmental factors in their investment choices.
Economy and ecology both have their etymological roots in the Greek word for household. Women's traditional role as family and community caretakers has historically centered on the household. Even as society is experiencing a dramatic expansion in women’s opportunities and participation in the world around them, women continue to work hard to provide their families with safe and nourishing food, clean drinking water, and – in emerging markets – sufficient fuel.
Perhaps this connection explains why women show a particularly strong interest in environmental issues, and why the Earth Day Network launched its Women and the Green Economy (WAGE) campaign to promote women’s leadership in designing and advancing the green economy. As the group explains on its website, “The campaign was born out of one overarching reality: the scarcity of women players in bodies that govern and shape our economy, specifically in approaching global solutions to climate change.”
Women have long been underrepresented in the investment space, too, but that’s beginning to change. A woman holds the top job at the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Social Security Administration. Christine Lagarde is the managing director of the International Monetary Fund. Here at Calvert Investments, our CEO is a woman, as are many of our senior associates.
Women’s growing participation in financial markets is not just good news for their own retirement prospects: it also will be great for the planet. Surveys consistently find that female investors are more likely than their male counterparts to view environmental factors as important. It stands to reason, then, that as women continue to swell the ranks of investors, they will drive demand for environmentally conscious investment products. Corporate boards and the world of finance would do well to take note.
Much work remains to be done to protect the planet that sustains us, and to bring women’s investment in their retirement up to equal footing with men’s. Still, the more these two efforts are intertwined, the more we are optimistic that they will both succeed. That makes this a very happy Earth Day indeed.
Calvert Investment Management, Inc., 4550 Montgomery Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814
Ellen Kennedy leads Calvert’s environment program, coordinating the advocacy and research of Calvert’s sustainability analysts working on climate change, water scarcity, energy, toxics, and other environmental issues. She has focused her own research and advocacy on the consumer staples sector for the past decade, particularly on farm-to-fork sustainability within food companies, and biodiversity. Ms. Kennedy holds an M.A. from UC Berkeley and a B.A. from Haverford College.