• Darina Barrett, Leadership |

As Asset Managers, we devote considerable time and skill to ensuring every investment we make is wisely diversified and providing stakeholders with the highest sustainable returns at the lowest cost.

We firmly believe in the portfolio value of sustainability and diversification. Who among us would consider an investment without including those fundamental elements for success? Why then are we not moving forward at greater pace in bringing these key qualities - as they can be applied to gender parity - to our own workplaces and beyond?

Organizations and industry sectors need to be doing much more, in my view, to ensure they are building sustainable gender-diversified enterprises that will contribute to their success. A deliberate and concerted shift in this direction - making sustainable gender-diversified workforces as priority - will unquestionably enhance the value of businesses and their prospects for future success.

I believe this mindset is becoming critical in our rapidly changing world, given how businesses and entire sectors are competing fiercely for top talent and the critical skills that will define their success - even survival - in the digital age.

As diversification and sustainability are helping to safeguard the future of our investments, we should take this approach in shaping our own workforces and beyond through the gender-parity lens. And the time to act is now. We have spent enough time and energy addressing gender-parity and examining it from every angle imaginable. It is well time to put ideas into dedicated action.

Businesses and consumers everywhere are wisely focused on 'sustainability' as an environmental concern and key requirement for the products and services being delivered to the global marketplace. That said, sustainability is many different things to many people - and the ultimate question it provides the correct answer to is: "Will my product or business survive into the future?"

In addition to green factors that influence our decision-making, we need to act on susatainability from a gender-parity perspective for the undeniably positive impact it will have on today's businesses and tomorrow's society. There is no time to lose, I would add.

As the Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, states in the WEF's new Global Gender Gap Report 2020:

"This year's report highlights the growing urgency for action. Without the equal inclusion of half of the world's talent, wie will not be able to deliver on the promise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution for all of society, grow our economies for greater shared prosperity or achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals," he warns.

"At the present rate of change, it will take nearly a century to achieve parity, a timeline we simply cannot accept in today's globalized world, especially among younger generations who hold increasingly progressive views of gender equality."

As the report states, to date there is still a 31.4 percent average gender gap that remains to be closed globally.This is not to say we are not at least moving in the right direction - if indeed less than apace.

As KPMG's 2019 report The Call to Act - Women in Alternative Investments, notes, institutional investors within the last few years have significantly stepped up efforts to influence change at the companies in which they invest.

Our report notes that today's powerful Asset Managers have taken meaningful steps to increase diversity within the companies in their portfolios - even using their proxy power to cast votes against directors on corporate boards that lack gender diversity. Investors are now, more than ever, willing and able to use their platforms for change among the businesses they invest in. They are realizing that improved corporate governance will enhance long-term returns and overall business value.

Let's apply the power of diversity to gender parity just as we apply diversification to investing and value enhancement - understanding that the results will be the same: stability and vastly heightened prospects for future success. At the same time, let's replace our pursuit of 'the best person for the job' with a quest that targets 'the best person for the team' amid the growing race for talent and critical new skills in our rapidly transforming workplaces and workforces.

As Asset Managers we believe and live by the Modern Portfolio Theory. Let's now put that thinking - from a sustainability and diversification perspective - into concerted action for a new future of gender parity and the heightened prospects for success that it holds.