Social bonds for gender equality

It's not often that global debt capital markets and gender diversity come together. Here's something ground breaking for big time investors!

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I was part of the team that created the world’s first social bond that specifically promoted gender equality in the workplace.

What this means is that institutional investors globally, like pension funds and insurance funds, now have the option to put their money in to financing or re-financing loans to organisations in Australia that champion women and equality in a positive way.

We were hoping investors would invest around $300 million in the bond, so were very pleased to achieve support at the top end of our volume aspirations of $500 million, at our target pricing of semi-quarterly asset swap plus 95 basis points.

I see this bond as a way of building a bridge between all the talk about gender equality and the action and leadership that is required to make that happen.

Addressing gender equality in the workplace has been a topic of discussion since I first joined the workforce as an aspiring chartered accountant over 20 years ago.

I am now Head of Group Funding at NAB, overseeing the strategy and execution of the bank’s term funding needs, which was about $36 billion in the 2016 financial year, as well as managing our debt investor relations strategy.

I am now very much interested in the gender equality discussion.

Although advances have been made, change has been slow and fundamentally the dynamics of gender at senior levels in the workplace have not changed.

There are very few senior females in the treasury teams at major or regional banks in Australia.

The World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186.  

We know that the organisations cited by Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) are well on the way to gender equality, and these are the businesses that are being funded via the NAB Social Bond (Gender Equality).

These organisations have realised that diversity helps them win in the market.

Publicly listed companies with diversity are 45 per cent more likely to report improved market share than those that don’t have diversity.

However, it’s the organisations that don’t qualify as Employers of Choice for Workplace Gender Equality that need our attention.

These are the organisations that are lagging behind in the effort to help women find more equal footing in the workplace.

In the Finance and Insurance Services sector, the gender pay gap is still more than 30 per cent.

And worryingly, it has grown from 2015 to 2016.

WGEA, also reports that 57.8 per cent of businesses operating in the Finance and Insurance Services sector undertook a gender gap pay analysis in 2016.

This means that most of the organisations in my industry know there is a substantial gender pay gap and have done nothing to address it.

We won’t know for a while whether this social bond will make a difference.

But we had to try. We had to be bold for change.

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