Bloomberg released its inaugural Gender-Equality Index on Monday, a report that measured the inclusivity of global companies in ten industries by examining factors like employment statistics, salary rates and internal policies such as maternity leave.
Of the 104 listed companies, only one U.S.-based retailer made the cut: Gap Inc.
Though French brands Kering and L’Oréal both made the index, the rankings are largely dominated by financial, tech and energy companies. On its blog, Gap Inc. wrote that its position on the index is a reflection of efforts made over the past several years to establish a more inclusive culture, including becoming the first Fortune 500 company to report fully equal pay in 2014. (In 2017, women on average were still paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to men.) Gap Inc.’s place on the index is also a larger testament to its concerted focus on transparency. It was one of the first retailers to release its global factory list, in 2016.
“Starting with our co-founder Doris Fisher, we’ve believed in the power of female leadership at all levels of the company,” wrote Laura Wilkinson, senior manager of public affairs and communications for Gap Inc. “From store managers to division presidents, from our female global management team members to the women who have run and helped to grow each of our iconic brands over the years, women have had a seat at the leadership table since the beginning.”
Companies featured on the index submitted a survey created in partnership with several third-party organizations that specialize in workplace diversity, including the National Partnership for Women & Families, National Women’s Law Center and Catalyst. While the lack of retailers may, in part, be attributed to the voluntary self-reported nature of the list in addition to its novelty, it mirrors recent discussions within the fashion industry regarding lack of female leadership.
Women currently make up 70 percent of Gap Inc.’s global employee base, and hold CEO positions at three of the company’s six brands, including Old Navy, Athleta and Weddington Way. These percentages are significantly higher than fashion industry averages, where only 8 percent of CEOs in the fashion industry are female. What’s more, women comprise less than 30 percent of creative directors at major fashion houses. Gap Inc. has managed to further solidify its place as a frontrunner in gender equality by also establishing an education and life skills program for women that is expected to impact one million individuals by 2020.
Despite Gap Inc.’s efforts to increase inclusivity, the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index still shows troubling gaps in gender equality and a dearth of female leadership. Using data from 2016, the report found that across the 104 selected companies, women hold 26 percent of senior leadership positions, 19 percent of executive officer roles and 46 percent of promotions. The methodology also examined marketing efforts, finding that 67 percent of the companies made a concerted effort to evaluate advertisements for gender bias before distribution, and 65 percent are members of third-party gender equality organizations.
Kiersten Barnet, deputy chief of staff to the chairman at Bloomberg, said in the announcement of the index that its intention is to encourage companies to improve inclusivity efforts and prompt internal change.
“More data and greater transparency in this space will allow investors to make better-informed decisions and help companies better understand their own progress towards gender equality,” she said.