Investors Have to Guess at Diversity Metrics When Most Firms Don't Say

(Bloomberg) -- Companies are saying more than ever about corporate sustainability, but when it comes to reporting on staff diversity they seem to lose their voice.

While about 85 percent of companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index report sustainability information today, only about 50 percent disclose diversity metrics to investors, Martina Cheung, president of S&P Global Market Intelligence, said at the Bloomberg Equality Summit in New York on Wednesday.

“Gender reporting is falling behind,” Cheung said, and the information that companies do report is often inconsistent.

That’s a challenge for investors who want to focus on women, and there are more of them than ever. Assets in the “gender lens” investing space have doubled in the last year to more than $4 billion, and they’re poised to keep growing. For the first time, women in the U.S. now control more wealth than men, and women globally should control $72 trillion in wealth by 2020.

“People have been focused on ESG for a long time, but they haven’t been as focused on diversity,” Jon Winkelried, co-CEO of private equity firm TPG said at the summit. “It’s coming up now. The current conversation is pretty laser-focused on it.”

To fill in the information gaps, investors are using big data, text analysis and machine learning to mine other public sources about gender at companies, S&P’s Cheung said.

Companies have an additional reason to gain insight into their own diversity, Ida Liu, managing director and global market manager for New York at Citi Private Bank, said at the summit.

“What get’s measured, gets done,” she said.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.