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By Yijia Chen, CFAPortfolio Manager, Calvert Research and Management

Washington - A new Calvert paper on gender diversity focuses on the economic and social forces behind improvements in the gender composition of the U.S. workforce — as well as international markets — over the past several decades.

Since the 1940s, women have joined the U.S. labor market* in droves, affecting workplace diversity, hiring practices, and social and economic trends. Many developed international economies have also experienced greater female participation in their workforces. Overall, we see three interconnected, driving forces behind this megatrend:

  • Global labor force has become more diverse as female representation in the labor force increased.
  • Talent pool has become more diverse as more women have achieved higher education degrees, particularly since the 1970s. In the U.S., women now hold more bachelor and graduate degrees than their male counterparts.
  • U.S. and global economies are now more driven by service-based sectors than resource-based ones, reflecting their greater reliance on intellectual capital and technology.

Growth of service-based sectors supports women

Over the last 50 years, the key driver of the global economy shifted from natural resources to the "Talent Economy," where more service-based jobs require innovation and independent decision-making. Amplified by globalization, this megatrend now impacts all major economies. Across both U.S. and developed markets, today more women are employed in the service-based sectors, including financials, health care, consumer and real estate than in the more resource-dependent sectors, such as materials, industrials and utilities.

Average Percentage of Female Employees by GICS Sector
(Companies in the MSCI USA Index and the MSCI Developed Markets ex USA Index, as of June 30)


Women are a highly educated demographic

Alongside increasing female participation in the U.S. labor force, more women have achieved higher-level degrees, bolstering the case for their hiring by service-based companies. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of the U.S. female population with a bachelor's degree or higher increased from 3.8% in 1940 to 38.3% in 2020, outpacing the male population. This observation is true not only in the U.S., but also in developed markets outside the U.S.


Large and mid-cap companies in service-based sectors have benefited from this increase in available intellectual talent, and now display a more gender-balanced workforce than resource-based sectors.

Bottom line: In the majority of developed markets, a great deal of progress has been made in achieving a gender-balanced workforce. While this progress is encouraging, we believe much work remains to be done to address gender gap issues, such as lack of representation in senior executive and management positions ("pipeline" issues) and the setback in progress resulting from the pandemic. We will discuss the corporate pipeline issue more closely, along with other topics, in the following papers of this series.

To read the full paper, "More Women at Work: Historical Perspectives," click here.

* Definitions (Workforce and Labor Force)

Workforce: The workforce only includes people who are employed.

Labor force: Conceptually, the labor force level is the number of people who are either working or actively looking for work. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the labor force includes all people age 16 and older who are classified as either employed or unemployed. Persons are classified as unemployed if they do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the prior 4 weeks, and are currently available for work. Persons who were not working and were waiting to be recalled to a job from which they had been temporarily laid off are also included as unemployed.

Index Definitions

MSCI USA Index: The MSCI USA Index is designed to measure the performance of the large and mid-cap segments of the U.S. market.

MSCI World ex USA Index: Captures large and mid-cap representation across 22 of 23 developed markets (DM) countries, excluding the United States. The index covers approximately 85% of the free float-adjusted market capitalization in each country.