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Gender lens investing: Banks not included

At the tail end of 2018, banks still seem to be a long way from equality.

Research from Veris Wealth Partners at the end of October showed an encouraging increase in the number of assets dedicated to gender lens investing – financing companies that support pay and job equality, or that support women-owned businesses.

In four years, gender lens funds have grown from $100 million to $2.4 billion globally. Veris’ chief executive, Patricia Farrar-Rivas, anticipates that figure will grow more than 10-fold within the next five years.

It’s a positive sign for the financial industry that banks and investment houses are offering more gender lens products to their clients, but would bank stocks make it into a gender lens investment portfolio? Probably not.

On the heels of revelations of a yawning gender pay gap at many of banks this year, the industry has had to deal with its own scandals of sexual harassment and discrimination.

UBS, for example, is currently investigating two sexual assault allegations. In Australia, the Haynes Royal Commission into the financial services industry has published reports from the four largest banks in the country showing widespread sexual harassment over the last decade.

Discrimination has also been put under the spotlight in the US by Christine Walika who, after 25 years with the American Bankers Association, filed a lawsuit in October claiming the ABA discriminated against women and minorities.

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