This International Women’s Day, Here Are Two Big Ways Men — Including Investors — Can Boost Gender Equality


By Josh Levs

The business case for achieving gender equality throughout professional life is so overwhelming that it’s tough to miss. “Closing the gender gap in the workforce could add a staggering $28 trillion to the global GDP,” the Council on Foreign Relations reports. A Stanford study found that, “Conservatively, 25% of growth in U.S. GDP between 1960 and 2010 can be attributed to greater gender and racial balance in the workplace,” and that figure could be as high as 40%.

Yet extremely few major corporations are led by women — only 4.6% of the Fortune Global 500, and 6% of the S&P 500. Women have also been especially hard hit by the pandemic, leaving the workforce in droves.

Two years ago, I had the honor of taking part in a Nasdaq bell ringing ceremony for gender equality, part of a global event at stock exchanges organized with U.N. Women. We couldn’t have known then how long the pandemic would last, and what a profound disruption it would prove to be. This International Women’s Day, parity looks extremely far off.

Men have as much to gain from gender equality as women do. As I explore in my book All In, the same forces that push women to stay home and do more of the caregiving also push men to work for more and more hours, missing time at home. In a survey, Dove Men+Care and Promundo found that 85% of men across seven countries, including 79% of men in the United States, would “do anything” to have more time at home after having a child, but financial pressures and attitudes of others at work stand in the way. (I have a partnership with Dove Men+Care.)

Investors are in a powerful position to help bring about change in corporate life. And they’re being called on to use that power. “There is an urgent need for investors to promote equality through their decisions, so that society emerges from this crisis faster, more inclusive and resilient than before,” said Tania Carnegie, global lead for private equity and asset management at KPMG Impact. And given that men own the majority of stocks, using that power is one way men can be effective allies for the cause of gender equality. Here are concrete steps that work.

Linking investments to gender balance

Gender lens” and “gender smart” investing are on the rise. Using investment dollars to support businesses with better gender metrics sends a signal to executives everywhere to prioritize diversity, equality and inclusion.

According to one survey, 63% of individual investors in the United States are interested in gender diversity for their portfolios. That’s a good sign, but it means there are plenty of investors who still need to come on board.

The financial incentives are clear. “Research shows that company profits and share performance can be close to 50 percent higher when women are well represented at the top,” McKinsey reports. Last year, Nasdaq established a rule aimed at boosting diversity and requiring public disclosures, helping investors make informed decisions.

Empowering men as caregivers

When’s the last time you asked corporate executives about their paternity leave policies? Without caregiving leave for men, companies effectively push all the caregiving onto women. So paternity leave is as crucial for women as it is for men.

The latest figures available, from late 2020, show that 45% of companies now offer some paid paternity leave. That’s an improvement from previous years, but still lacking. Dove Men+Care launched the Pledge for Paternity Leave to help grow the movement for change. Shareholders should make sure the companies they invest in support men as caregivers.

Even when paternity leave is available, stigmas often prevent men from using it. See how some people attacked the very concept of paternity leave when Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg took it. So it’s important to ask whether men at a company are taking leave when it is available. If they’re not, it isn’t because they don’t want to. It’s because they know some men have been fired, demoted, or lost job opportunities for taking paternity leave, and they don’t want that to happen to them.

As Katrin Schulz of the World Bank Group’s Women, Business and the Law team explains, “Researchers have linked fathers’ use of leave with increased earnings for the mother, reduced mother-absenteeism due to sickness and higher female employment in private firms.” By pushing companies to make paternity leave a norm — and by adding their voices to the call for a federal paid family leave insurance plan — men can help turn the tides.

Of course, there are numerous other ways to be allies as well, so be sure to check out these resources. Let’s all help #BreakTheBias.

Josh Levs is a communications consultant, gender equality activist, and the top expert on modern dads at work. See

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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