Q&A: Oxford professor Linda Scott on insisting on standard methods for gender equality

Live expert panel on Twitter with Professor Linda Scott – the full Q&A


Natasha Turner

Gender inequality is a drag on national economic growth and contributes to poverty, hunger, poor health, violence and more, said Linda Scott, a professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at the University of Oxford.

“There is no country on the planet nor any industry that has reached gender equality,” said Scott in answers to ESG Clarity reader questions posted on Twitter. “There are success stories, but they are limited to one or two programmes within a single company.”

Scott’s best known for creating the concept of the Double X Economy, which she described as a distinctive system under which women participate in the economy as consumers, investors, donors and workers. It’s a “shadowy economy,” sort of like the gig economy, she said.

Scott also founded the Global Business Coalition for Women’s Economic Empowerment, created a consulting firm DoubleXEconomy LLC to focus on women’s economic empowerment, and led a global initiative to put women’s financial inclusion on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

See also: – Podcast: Regulation, green gilts and women’s economic empowerment

We have collated all the questions and answers below for readers to view in one place.

The live Q&A is an initiative from ESG Clarity to boost interaction between the in-house team and our readers, as well as connect them with ESG investing experts such as the CEO of the PRI Fiona Reynolds and Professor Gandhi.

We are asking readers to send further suggestions to Natalie.kenway@lastwordmedia.com and Natasha.turner@lastwordmedia.com on who they would like to interview in the next Live Q&A Twitter sessions. These should be experts in responsible investing space, for example a senior person at a government or trade body/organisation, academics, charity representative, or somebody in a senior position at a think tank, campaign organisations, regulatory committees, network etc.

Is there a best practice for assessing a company’s actual performance on gender equity?

Linda Scott: Lots of PR comes out from companies touting their success on diversity but the information is not standardised nor reliable – nor probably honest. What we need is more transparency.  But the best practices stuff is balderdash in my view.

What ways can financial advisers help make women become equal participants in the economy?

Scott: Again, the problem is standardisation and transparency – and comparability across companies and sectors. What we need is for the investment community to insist on standard methods. Or else for governments to require it, as in the UK.

Why are we having so much trouble getting to gender equality in the western countries?

Scott: We must stop asking what’s wrong with women. There’s no evidence of a deficit. We must instead look critically at the resistance. For instance, 80-90% of men support gender equality. We should ask what is wrong with the remaining 10% who don’t?

This small group is the problem.  Those men are outliers, but they have a disproportionate effect because they are in positions of authority and influence institutions to drag down equality. We must face up to this.

Which economies have been successful at increasing diversity in their big industries? What are the success stories we can learn from?

Scott: Important: There is no country on the planet nor any industry that has reached gender equality. You can see this in aggregate data. There are success stories, but they are limited to one or two programmes within a single company.

How big a problem do you think it is that the asset management industry operates with such a broad range of definitions for ESG/sustainable/impact investing?

Scott: To my knowledge, there is still a need for financial measurements to measure the impact on women. This is being addressed by researchers in gender lens investing. So, I guess the bad news is that the range of definitions needs to expand.

How do we hold companies accountable for not prioritising D&I? Many firms don’t publish their gender pay gap figures.

Scott: UK requires top employers publish pay gap data. The first time was a real “come to Jesus” moment: the gap was big, crossed industries and institutions. Other countries must do this. We must start holding governments accountable for enforcing equality laws.

Targets for women on boards aren’t working, should the UK follow France and Italy with mandatory quotas?

Scott: Nobody likes to think we need quotas, especially in the US and UK, but the truth is we won’t get there if we don’t have them. It’s clear there is too much resistance to letting women in.

Some women say they don’t want to pay attention to the finances of their home, that they are busy worrying about other issues. What are some of the reasons you would dissuade them from taking such an approach to money?

Scott: Data show this attitude is widespread and adds serious risk to women’s lifetime economic security. It’s a massive issue. We need to start by more aggressively informing. Women are significantly more likely to be poor in old age. This is one reason why.

Is male dominance natural in humans?

Scott: No! One reason we know that is the level of male dominance has changed substantially in the past 50 years and it varies greatly across cultures. It cannot be hard-wired when it shows that kind of change.

Another question about natural male dominance is we’re equally close, genetically, to a female-dominant species, bonobos, as we are to chimps, who are patriarchal. They’re genetically almost identical to each other. We know nothing regarding the common ancestor.

In any case, we must change it because male dominance is jeopardizing our species’ survival. War and disease are universal among humans, but we don’t allow them to go unchecked. We should treat patriarchy the same way. Data show it is toxic to us.

What is the global impact of gender inequality?

Scott: Gender inequality drags down economic growth at the national level. It also contributes significantly to poverty, hunger, poor health, trafficking, violence, and war. This stuff is really toxic.


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