New report highlights the role of ESG in achieving gender equality

A new All-Party Parliamentary Group report on gender equality seeks to bring approaches to gender equality in the corporate world together with those to encourage a more level playing field for female entrepreneurs.

2019 best practice report


The target for executive women on boards should be raised to 40% to ‘spur momentum’ on gender equality at work, with the scope of the target being widened to include the 500 largest publicly listed companies and 100 largest private companies, according to a new report.

The report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Environmental, social, and corporate governance [ESG] looks at various ways to achieve greater gender equality in the workplace. In addition to raising the profile of gender board targets and communicating a clear ambition for more women to reach senior and executive leadership roles, it also covers female entrepreneurship and the lack of investment in it.

It recommends that the Government makes clear statements calling for progress towards gender equality in entrepreneurship as well as adopting a coordinated approach to ensure women-founded businesses receive loans at the same rate and value as their male counterparts.

Just 17.3% of UK companies were female-led in 2022/23, according to The Gender Index while the British Business Bank states that loans granted to women are significantly lower, £174,000 on average for women than the £507,000  men are granted.

The report says the Government needs to scale up its efforts to raise the profile of the Investing in Women Code (IIWC) to increase participation in terms of signatories, engagement with investors and the sharing of data.

It highlights the crossover between initiatives on gender equality in entrepreneurship and in the corporate world.  For instance, it calls on the Government to continue to support and heighten the visibility of the women-led high-growth enterprise taskforce and for a similar taskforce to be established to address gender equality in the corporate world.

Other recommendations include:

– a consultation assisting the FTSE Women Leaders Review which would identify the highest value and lowest burden data disclosures and for the Government to consider rolling out a national successor to the Treasury Select Committee’s ‘Sexism in the City’ consultation

– a requirement for listed companies to publicly disclose board members’ salaries on their website, and annual and sustainability reports, explaining gaps in pay between male and female board members.

– a requirement on public companies to publish post-maternity retention rates, including retention after six months and after a year.

– greater transparency about why businesses are failing to bring more women through the talent pipeline and on their plans to address failures to meet targets.

– new guidance and basic standards on ‘gender washing’ [adopting a tick box approach to gender equality] to be developed by the Department for Work and Pensions’ social factors pensions taskforce and the new corporate gender equality taskforce proposed by the APPG.

The report also calls on the Government to create a new unit as part of the Gender Pay Gap Service, which  will coordinate initiatives towards achieving corporate gender equality, and publish guidance on how to avoid ‘gender washing’.

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