As more companies work toward gender equality, transparency in reporting and disclosure of social data may be on the rise. A record number of companies disclosed their data for this year’s Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index (GEI), according to a report released Jan. 27. GEI companies had a 94% disclosure score on average, according to Bloomberg. However, the data indicated there’s still need for improvement on advancing equity, the report found.

Automatic Data Processing Inc. (ADP), Chipotle, DuPont, Ford Motor Company, Prudential and Hewlett Packard Enterprise are some of the U.S. companies listed in the GEI index, which included 380 publicly-listed companies headquartered across 44 countries. Although companies on the index are advancing in transparency, the average data excellence score was 55%, “making it evident there is still work that needs to be done,” according to Bloomberg. The data excellence score is evaluated across five categories: female leadership and talent pipeline, equal pay and gender pay parity, inclusive culture, sexual harassment policies, and pro-women brand. On average, 39% of revenue-producing roles at the companies were held by women, and just over half (52%) of companies required a gender diverse slate of candidates for management positions, according to the report. On average, women make up 29% of GEI board membership.

The greater majority of the companies included in the index provide flexible working hours, and offer flexible working locations. The data provided was from fiscal year 2019, indicating that companies were considering more workplace flexibility prior to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the report. The majority (69%) of companies had a strategy for recruiting women, and more than half (59%) conducted a global gender-based compensation review. After parental leave, 85% of employees, on average, remain at the companies on the index and just under half (46%) of the employers provided childcare subsidies or other financial support. The data also shows that inclusive corporate policies are benefiting communities, according to Bloomberg. More than half (60%) of companies on the index sponsor financial education programs for women, while 64% sponsor programs dedicated to STEM education programs for women.

Amid the pandemic and heightened calls for social justice and equity in 2020, many companies began to affirm commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and made pledges to support underrepresented communities.

The GEI index also increases the depth of environmental, social and governance (ESG) company data available to investors, according to Bloomberg. “As we continue to grapple with the pandemic, we’ve seen companies put increased emphasis on the ‘S’ in ESG,” Peter T. Grauer, chairman of Bloomberg, said in a statement.

Employees expect companies to make positive impacts in the workforce and in the communities they serve, according to industry experts. The work of DEI professionals in 2021 may include increased coordination with corporate social responsibility (CSR) teams, as the events of 2020 heightened a movement of business leaders that seek to make serving communities a priority. For example, the Business Roundtable updated its statement of purpose in August 2019, which was signed by more than 180 CEOs, to shift the focus of business from solely profits to people. The purpose of a corporation is to promote an “economy that serves all Americans,” the statement said, in part.

The business leaders involved in the roundtable “were committing to not only lead their companies on behalf of shareholders, but also consider employees, suppliers, customers and communities,” Grace Suh, vice president of education at IBM said in a recent interview. At IBM, business teams, employees and external partners are the stakeholder groups that comprise its CSR co-creation model.

An increase in transparency in reporting gender equity practices supports inclusion, according to Bloomberg’s report. Companies must also provide pay transparency to address the gender wage gap, according to a December report from the National Bureau of Economic Research. It should not be expected that pay transparency will eliminate all gender differences; however, “the literature points to it as an effective first step organizations and governments can take if they wish to reduce gender differences in labor-market outcomes,” the report found.

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