The content on this website is intended for investment professionals and institutional asset owners. Individual retail investors should consult with their financial advisers before using any of the content contained on this website. Breckinridge uses cookies to improve user experience. By using our website, you consent to our cookies in accordance with our cookie policy. By clicking “I Agree” and accessing this website, you represent and warrant that you are agreeing to the above statements. In addition, you have read, understood and agree to the terms and conditions of this website. The content on this website is not intended for use or distribution outside of the U.S., unless permitted by applicable law.


Perspective published on March 8, 2021

The Future Benefit of Gender Lens Investing

Abigail Ingalls, Senior Research Analyst at Breckinridge, spoke with Dominica Ribeiro, the firm’s Chief Marketing Officer, about the state of gender lens investing (GLI) and what the future holds for investors, companies and society in general regarding the advancement and empowerment of women.

Ribeiro: Breckinridge’s GLI strategy is marking its sixth year in 2021. What’s the high-level business case for tying gender equality into investment decisions?

Ingalls: It’s difficult to quantify, but the more we shine a light on this critically important topic, the more we’ll see progress, and we believe that, over time, the better off society will be.

To put this in context, gender diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is just one component of larger DEI efforts. It’s a critically important issue and an area where early progress has been made and plenty of data is available. DEI is an essential part of overall best practices within human capital management, and a key aspect of attracting the best and getting the best out of our people.

As Andy Bryant, former chairman of Intel, said: “The ingredient we start with is sand. Everything else is value added by people.” If you’re not fully tapping all of your people, it’s logical that you’re not going to be maximizing your potential as an organization.

McKinsey & Company has published a series of reports on the topic, tying improved corporate performance with the elevated presence of women in the workplace.

In its 2015 report, Diversity Matters, McKinsey found that if gender inequality were eliminated, the total economic output would be $28 trillion higher. And in 2018, in Delivering through Diversity, McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity at the executive level were 21 percent more likely to generate above-average profitability than firms in the lowest quartile.

Morgan Stanley, in its August 2019 report, The Rise of the SHEconomy, found that globally, companies that have taken a holistic approach to equal representation outperformed their peers by 3.1 percent per year over an 8-year period. And The World Bank found that total global wealth could increase by 14 percent if women reached earnings parity with men.

So, we have plenty of evidence that attracting, hiring, retaining, developing, supporting and promoting women so as to gain from their full contributions is not only the right and fair thing to do but a smart business strategy. And that’s something all investors can gain from.

Ribeiro: Those astounding numbers beg the question: Why hasn’t industry or our society made more progress on this if there’s so much to gain from an investment, company and societal standpoint?

Ingalls: Fundamental, meaningful change tends to be hard for organizations that often have well-entrenched ways of operating. Pertaining to women’s slow progress in representation in senior leadership, one key finding in McKinsey’s 2020 Women in the Workplace annual study is that the ‘broken rung’ holding women back from greater gains in leadership is at the first managerial level. For every 100 men promoted to become managers, only 85 women are promoted. And that gap is greater for BIPOC women: Only 58 Black women and 71 Latinas are promoted for every 100 men.

That means there are fewer women available to potentially advance to senior management. That’s one reason why this continues to be an issue that corporate management must address and why we, as concerned investors, who see the value of greater representation of women, will continue to monitor and advocate for more progress.

Ribeiro: What are the most critical factors that you believe determine success in gender lens investing?

Ingalls: Among the key criteria are the percentage of women on the board of directors and having a woman as CEO. Also important, and more challenging to measure, is the positive impact of things like women-friendly and family-supportive policies, creating clear accountability for progress on gender equity, and closing the gender wage gap. We consider these and numerous other factors in making our investment decisions through a gender lens.

Ribeiro: How is Breckinridge advocating for greater progress on gender equity issues among bond issuers? And how are you evaluating progress on these issues?

Ingalls: Each year, we have 50 to 60 meaningful detailed environmental, social and governance (ESG) engagements or meetings with issuers of corporate, municipal and government bonds addressing a range of topics, including but not limited to human capital management (HCM)/DEI.

As part of these discussions, we often highlight policies that are consistent with global ESG standards such as the Women’s Empowerment Principles as developed with the United Nations Global Compact and UN Women and point to how following these policies contribute to progress in HCM/DEI performance within sectors and industries

And interest in GLI is growing rapidly. According to Veris, a leading consultant in impact investing, asset growth in gender lens investing products jumped by 40 percent from 2018 to 2019 to a total of $3.4 billion in June 2019. As a further sign of the increased focus on evaluating diversity and inclusion, Boston-based investment consultant Meketa Investment Group recently launched its Annual Diversity & Inclusion Questionnaire in an effort to hold asset managers more accountable for efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion within their organizations.

Ribeiro: Could you address the tremendous challenges posed by the disruptions created by COVID-19 over the past year and the impact they are having on gender equity?

Ingalls: It’s no surprise that women have had to shoulder more than their fair share of stress during this challenging time. Working mothers in particular have had to do double duty and even triple duty, picking up the slack created by home schooling or hybrid home/classroom learning situations while maintaining their work responsibilities and normal load of housework and maternal care giving.

The pandemic has been particularly damaging for women when it comes to job loss and career interruption. Through last summer, women made up roughly 54 percent of jobs lost during the pandemic recession, McKinsey reported. Specifically, the pandemic recession—some are calling it the shecession—has hit service sector jobs, health and education especially hard. These are fields where women professionals tend to be more prevalent.

McKinsey found that mothers are more likely than fathers to worry that their performance is being negatively judged due to their increased caregiving responsibilities, which can include being relied on by aging parents and in-laws as well as one’s children.

Further, women in senior leadership, who are often surrounded by men at that level, typically feel the unrelenting pressure of always having to be on. As a result, we’re widely seeing increased burnout among women. So, we’re at risk of seeing recent far-reaching successes in gender equity wiped out.

Ribeiro: What should employers be doing to address these critical issues?

Ingalls: The general common-sense answer is to be more sensitive to and supportive of the needs of all female employees, especially working mothers, women in senior leadership, and women of color, who have always had to fight for equity on more than one level. These are six good ideas from McKinsey:

  1. Make work more sustainable. That could mean giving parents extra time off to help prepare for the new school year, for example.
  2. Reset norms around flexibility. Look for ways to help reset boundaries around work and the rest of people’s lives.
  3. Rethink performance reviews. Assess whether pre-pandemic performance criteria still apply. Think creatively within the current context with a goal of preventing burnout and anxiety.
  4. Take steps to address and reduce gender bias. Organizations should ask questions like: Are women being held to higher performance standards? Are they judged more harshly? Are mothers penalized for taking advantage of flexible work options?
  5. Adjust policies and programs to better support employees. Make sure employees are fully aware of all the benefits available to them, including mental health counseling.
  6. Improve employee communication. Open and frequent communication can go a long way to reduce anxiety and build trust, which can improve morale, retention, and productivity.

Ribeiro: What about the special challenges faced by Black women?

Ingalls: Black women have always faced additional challenges in the workplace, whether overt racism, systemic imbalances, or a sense of not being fully supported. At this time, there needs to be a clearer and more explicit level of commitment and support from companies, which can include greater recruitment efforts, mentorships, and sponsorships, as well as a culture that more openly supports and values Black women.

Ribeiro: Do you have any final thoughts to share?

Ingalls: Our commitment at Breckinridge to gender lens investing is rooted in our strong belief that empowering women creates societal as well as economic value. We believe that companies that effectively tap into the talents, skills, and perspectives of promising women are better positioned for long-term success. And the statistics I cited earlier underscore this.

Make no mistake, we acknowledge the potential for woke-washing,1 and recognize that Breckinridge—like our industry—has significant room for improvement on gender equity and overall DEI progress.

That said, we are continuing to advocate for greater empowerment of women through analysis and engagement, primarily with large-cap companies. At the same time, on a smaller scale, we are striving to make a difference at Breckinridge by undertaking a DEI assessment within our own walls.

There is so much to gain – for investors, shareholders, employees, management and society – if we can make meaningful progress on these issues. We at Breckinridge are more determined than ever to do our part to see this happen as GLI and ESG become an increasing part of mainstream investing.


[1] Woke-washing is the appropriation of social awareness as a form of advertising with the intent of generating profit.



This material provides general and/or educational information and should not be construed as a solicitation or offer of Breckinridge services or products or as legal, tax or investment advice. The content is current as of the time of writing or as designated within the material. All information, including the opinions and views of Breckinridge, is subject to change without notice.

Any estimates, targets, and projections are based on Breckinridge research, analysis, and assumptions. No assurances can be made that any such estimate, target or projection will be accurate; actual results may differ substantially.

Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Breckinridge makes no assurances, warranties or representations that any strategies described herein will meet their investment objectives or incur any profits. Any index results shown are for illustrative purposes and do not represent the performance of any specific investment. Indices are unmanaged and investors cannot directly invest in them. They do not reflect any management, custody, transaction or other expenses, and generally assume reinvestment of dividends, income and capital gains. Performance of indices may be more or less volatile than any investment strategy.

Performance results for Breckinridge’s investment strategies include the reinvestment of interest and any other earnings, but do not reflect any brokerage or trading costs a client would have paid. Results may not reflect the impact that any material market or economic factors would have had on the accounts during the time period. Due to differences in client restrictions, objectives, cash flows, and other such factors, individual client account performance may differ substantially from the performance presented.

All investments involve risk, including loss of principal. Diversification cannot assure a profit or protect against loss. Fixed income investments have varying degrees of credit risk, interest rate risk, default risk, and prepayment and extension risk. In general, bond prices rise when interest rates fall and vice versa. This effect is usually more pronounced for longer-term securities. Income from municipal bonds can be declared taxable because of unfavorable changes in tax laws, adverse interpretations by the IRS or state tax authorities, or noncompliant conduct of a bond issuer.

Breckinridge believes that the assessment of ESG risks, including those associated with climate change, can improve overall risk analysis. When integrating ESG analysis with traditional financial analysis, Breckinridge’s investment team will consider ESG factors but may conclude that other attributes outweigh the ESG considerations when making investment decisions.

There is no guarantee that integrating ESG analysis will improve risk-adjusted returns, lower portfolio volatility over any specific time period, or outperform the broader market or other strategies that do not utilize ESG analysis when selecting investments. The consideration of ESG factors may limit investment opportunities available to a portfolio. In addition, ESG data often lacks standardization, consistency and transparency and for certain companies such data may not be available, complete or accurate.

Breckinridge’s ESG analysis is based on third party data and Breckinridge analysts’ internal analysis. Analysts will review a variety of sources such as corporate sustainability reports, data subscriptions, and research reports to obtain available metrics for internally developed ESG frameworks. Qualitative ESG information is obtained from corporate sustainability reports, engagement discussion with corporate management teams, among others. A high sustainability rating does not mean it will be included in a portfolio, nor does it mean that a bond will provide profits or avoid losses.

Net Zero alignment and classifications are defined by Breckinridge and are subjective in nature. Although our classification methodology is informed by the Net Zero Investment Framework Implementation Guide as outlined by the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, it may not align with the methodology or definition used by other companies or advisors. Breckinridge is a member of the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials and uses the financed emissions methodology to track, monitor and allocate emissions. These differences should be considered when comparing Net Zero application and strategies.

Targets and goals for Net Zero can change over time and could differ from individual client portfolios. Breckinridge will continue to invest in companies with exposure to fossil fuels; however, we may adjust our exposure to these types of investments based on net zero alignment and classifications over time.

Any specific securities mentioned are for illustrative and example only. They do not necessarily represent actual investments in any client portfolio.

The effectiveness of any tax management strategy is largely dependent on each client’s entire tax and investment profile, including investments made outside of Breckinridge’s advisory services. As such, there is a risk that the strategy used to reduce the tax liability of the client is not the most effective for every client. Breckinridge is not a tax advisor and does not provide personal tax advice. Investors should consult with their tax professionals regarding tax strategies and associated consequences.

Federal and local tax laws can change at any time. These changes can impact tax consequences for investors, who should consult with a tax professional before making any decisions.

The content may contain information taken from unaffiliated third-party sources. Breckinridge believes such information is reliable but does not guarantee its accuracy or completeness. Any third-party websites included in the content has been provided for reference only. Please see the Terms & Conditions page for third party licensing disclaimers.