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This tool helps you make sure your 401(k) is supporting gender equality

Do you know if your retirement funds are supporting companies with pro-women policies (or even women on the board)? Gender Equality Funds can help you move your money to support your politics.

This tool helps you make sure your 401(k) is supporting gender equality
[Image: Milkos/iStock]

If you’re like most people with a 401(k), you probably don’t know which companies are in your mutual funds, let alone whether those companies have policies to support gender equality or how many women they have on their board of directors or senior management team.

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A new tool answers those questions. “Now people can actually look at a mutual fund and know, wow, this fund is doing terrible things on gender–companies in this fund have no women on the board, they have no equal pay for equal work, they don’t have a sexual harassment policy, they don’t have maternity and paternity leave,” says Andy Behar, CEO of As You Sow, the nonprofit that created a tool called Gender Equality Funds.

[Image: Milkos/iStock]
The tool pulls in data on 4,000 companies from Equileap, an organization that studies gender equality in the corporate sector. If you type in the name or ticker of a mutual fund or ETF, it shows a gender score for each fund, based on detailed data about the hundreds or thousands of companies in the fund. Vanguard (VTSAX), for example, scores particularly badly among its peers. The Pax Elevate Global Women’s Leadership Fund (PXWIX), by contrast, scores particularly well. Armed with results about the most socially responsible funds, you can ask your retirement fund manager or financial adviser to move your money.

The tool is the fifth in a series from As You Sow; the first was Fossil Free Funds, a tool created as the organization worked on the movement for divestment from fossil fuel companies. “What we discovered was people wanted to divest from fossil fuels, but nobody had a clue what they actually owned because they were all held in mutual funds,” says Behar. “They didn’t realize that they were holding Halliburton and Exxon and coal-fired utilities like Duke–everything that went against their entire ethos. And so in order to align investing with your values, we said you have to know what you own.”

[Image: Milkos/iStock]
With the new tool, Behar expects to see similar divestment from companies that perform poorly on gender issues. “I believe this is going to be a tsunami of capital shifting away from companies that are not responsive on gender equality,” he says. “I think any company that isn’t right now actively looking at their policies, looking at their practices, are going to lose massively.”

When it has the funding, As You Sow wants to create another tool that combines all of its tools–looking at fossil fuels, rain forest deforestation, tobacco, weapons, and gender–into one place. “Our vision is you would go to the site and you would say, ‘I care about gender first, three-year return second, and climate third, and I work at IBM.’ And it would say, ‘Okay, IBM has these 40 mutual funds in their 401(k) plan. Boom, here’s your optimized portfolio.”

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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