Mark Lamb | Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Here come the girls

Weekly international investment round up to 19 May 2009

• The ‘man-made’ economic crisis has far reaching effects

• Growing female consumer and boardroom power is influencing investment markets

Four Kuwaiti women have been elected to their country’s parliament for the first time in their history and four years after the country first granted women the right to vote. The ‘man-made’ economic downturn seems to have led to even the most conservative corners of the world beginning to rethink the established way of doing things.
The latest general election in Kuwait was the third in three years and followed unprecedented pressure on the ruling al-Sabah family as the oil rich country struggles to implement an effective economic stimulus package to help ordinary Kuwaitis overcome the global financial crisis. Back in November the ‘Kuwait Stock Exchange’, one of the Persian Gulf‘s largest and most well established, was closed for a while by court order following heavy losses although it has recently picked up and registered a 25 per cent increase over the month to 15 May.
The previous testosterone filled Wall Street offices may also experience a shake-up with women taking much more of a prominent role. For example, last year when the crisis was at its height Bank of America selected Barbara Desoer to clean up the massive home loan problems at Countrywide and her astute handling of this difficult situation now has her tipped to become a future CEO.
Forbes list of ‘The world’s most powerful women’ have just under half of those chosen based outside of America. Five of which are from the UK, four are from China while France, India, and Holland each have three contributors. The list also includes Morocco’s first ranked women to make the list, Hynd Bouhia, the director-general of the Casablanca Stock Exchange. In Forbes separate list of ‘The world’s richest people’ unfortunately the fairer sex is still the rarer sex with only 99 female billionaires listed in last year’s survey out of the estimated worldwide total of 1,125 and out of these only 10 women billionaires appear to be self-made.
From an investor perspective does any of this really matter? For those that believe the current unprecedented financial crisis is just a ‘blip’ and it’s just a matter of time until things return back to ‘normal’ maybe not, but just as the wider influence of environmental matters (and legislation) are impacting balance sheets around the world the growing consumer and boardroom power exerted by women is causing a shift in spending patterns and the way future business is conducted.
Figures from the EU show that since the beginning of this century women filled 6 million of the 8 million newly created jobs within the region and represented 59 per cent of the graduates while a separate 2007 study by Catalyst noted that companies within the Fortune 500 with three or more women on their boards had an 83 per cent greater return on equity when compared to companies with the lowest representation of women. In America, it is also estimated that women make 80 per cent of all consumer purchasing decisions.
Whether it’s the different qualities women can bring to an organisation or just a clear indication of a company’s open corporate culture, investors shouldn’t ignore the increasing female influence.



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Here come the girls



20 May 2009

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