By some accounts Ada Lovelace, daughter of the romance poet Byron, was the first computer programmer based on her work for Charles Babbage’s proposed Analytical Engine in the mid-19th century.
It was a promising start for women. But as growth in digital world exploded over a century later, the level of representation of women in the technology sector has not kept pace. In fact, recent data shows only one in five1 computer science graduates were women. Only 24% of women pursued a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) degree2, and women were on track to fill only 3% of the 1.4 million jobs in computing related fields in 20203. Importantly, this is not just a “STEM” or a computing industry issue. There isn’t a single industry that has been unimpacted by the rise of technology in recent decades. Even the simplest tasks from grocery shopping to helping our kids with their homework, have become technology-driven endeavors.
Elevating the representation of women in technology is a challenge every day but it’s particularly worth taking notice of as March marks Women’s History Month. For investors, their portfolios can also experience ramifications from this inequity. Evidence suggests that companies with more diverse boards have higher returns and lower risk profiles. Companies with high participation of women at all staffing levels report better business performance.
Last year, we introduced our family of “dual impact” exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to help address challenges like this and introduce ways the marketplace can support their communities and invest aligned with their values. These thematic funds are designed for investors who want to position their portfolios to potentially do well while at the same time seeking to have a positive impact on society. The “dual impact” represents the fund’s alignment with – and contribution to – the mission of a nonprofit related to the fund’s investment strategy.
In the case of inequality and with the goal of making an impact in closing the gender gap in the technology sector, we introduced the IQ Engender Equality ETF (EQUL) working with leading non-profit Girls Who Code (GWC), an organization that is supporting, empowering, and increasing the representation of women in computer science. A portion of EQUL’s management fees goes to GWC to support the group’s mission of inspiring, educating, and equipping girls with the confidence and computing skills they need to become leaders. To date, we’ve helped support nearly 30 free programs and almost 350 students in the GWC program, including skills like girls learning coding, to finding role models and peers in the computer science and technology fields.
How we invest
The EQUL investment process utilizes the Gender Equality Scorecard™ developed by Equileap, an independent data provider with a broad scope of gender metrics, enabling investors to make data-informed investment decisions. Equileap evaluates more than 4,000 large-, mid-, and small-capitalization companies globally across 19 criteria including: gender balance of the workforce, senior management, and the board of directors; equal compensation; and policies promoting gender equality. The top 75 U.S. companies with the highest Equileap score are included in the index.
These girls who code may ultimately become women who start businesses, women who launch new industries, and women who lead. An investment in EQUL provides a way to help support this as an individual holding or as part of a broader-based Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) portfolio.
1. Girls Who Code. “Girls Who Code Annual Report 2020
2. STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics. Entrepreneur.com. “Infographic: The Tide Turns for Women in Tech.” Accessed 26 Sept. 2021.
3. Tory Burch Foundation. Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code.Accessed 10 May 2016.
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