Socially responsible investment (SRI) funds can take on a variety of mandates. They often look to invest in companies that do business in an environmentally responsible manner and that pay attention to fair supply chain practices. Still others make a point not to invest in companies that are involved in the sale of tobacco, weapons or gambling. Less known is that many of these SRI funds have also made it their business to invest in companies that strive to empower women in the workplace. Here is a list of a few that do just that. (For related reading, see: Socially Responsible Investing vs. Sin Stocks.)

Calvert Investments

Calvert Investments has long been an advocate for diversity and the promotion of women worldwide. In 2004, in partnership with the United National Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), it created Calvert’s Women's Principles, which defined a global code of corporate conduct on empowering and investing in women. In 2010, those principals were used as the basis for the UN's Women's Empowerment Principles. The fund was also instrumental in developing a model charter language on board diversity, recommending companies abide by it when creating an independent and inclusive board. Calvert made much headway on this front, in 2010, when it filed 14 resolutions on women and diversity in the workplace. As a result, eight companies have since changed their board of director’s selection criteria to include race and gender diversity. Additionally, Calvert has been advocating for women’s empowerment by actively voting its proxies, initiating shareholder resolutions and holding discussions with corporate management.

Domini Social Investments

Domini Social Investments looks to invest in companies that are committed to workplace diversity. That means they expect to see substantial representation of women and minorities in management-level positions, including as senior line executives, when evaluating a company. Its funds also look to invest in companies that provide an open work environment for minorities and for gay and lesbian employees. Additionally, it seeks out companies that offer sexual harassment training and programs that promote a respect for diversity. In that vein, Domini makes sure to stay away from companies that have a history or record of controversies related to lack of diversity, sexual harassment and/or discrimination. Domini’s Proxy Voting Guidelines note that it will vote against boards of trustees that do not include women or people of color. (For related reading, see: Impact Investing: The Ethical Choice.)

Neuberger Berman

Neuberger Berman’s NB Socially Responsive Fund (NBSRX) looks to invest in companies that are ahead of the fray in promoting diversity in the workplace. To that end, the fund seeks corporations that make a point of promoting women and minorities to senior-level positions, as well as putting them on their boards of directors. The fund also likes companies that offer diversity training programs and that make support groups available. It makes an effort to buy stock in companies that purchase goods and services from women- and minority-owned firms. Additionally, it looks for companies that have taken broad and innovative steps toward hiring and training women and minorities and that have a reputation for promoting diversity in the workplace. The NB fund also avoids investment in companies that have recently been brought up or named in discrimination lawsuits related to gender, race, disability, or sexual orientation.

Parnassus Investments

Parnassus Investments is devoted to finding those companies that promote diversity in the workplace and that make it a priority to have women and minorities represented at all levels of the company ladder, in particular at the executive level. The fund managers make a point of voting for resolutions that aim to improve the representation of women and ethnic minorities in the workforce and to increase diversity and equal pay for equal work. Its oldest offering, the $627 million Parnassus Fund (PARNX), was created in 1984 and has returned 8.09% year-to-date.

Pax World Investments

Pax World Investments has been promoting women’s empowerment and diversity through investing for years, and has been an advocate in disseminating the mounting evidence that gender diversity has positive financial consequences. Its Pax World Global Women’s Equality Fund focuses on investing in companies that continue to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment. The Pax funds managers always make sure to voting proxies, file shareholder resolutions and engage in corporate dialogs that are geared toward issuing in corporate diversity and women’s empowerment. Pax's flagship fund, which went live in 1971 and now holds upwards on $2 billion, is the Pax World Individual Investor (PAXWX). If has returned 5% year-to-date.

Praxis Mutual Funds

Praxis Mutual Funds make sure to review a company’s core social values and issues related to women’s empowerment before investing in it. The funds’ managers pursue shareholder actions against practices of modern slavery, such as the trafficking of women or girls. In 2010 Praxis engaged in a shareholder dialog with hotel company Wyndham Worldwide Corp. (WYN) to push for better training and procedures to be put in place that would help stop human trafficking from taking place at the company’s hotels. Praxis also took part in shareholder conversations with Delta Air Lines, Inc. (DAL), resulting in Delta’s signing of the tourism Code of Conduct, an initiative designed with the ECPAT International, a global network dedicated to protecting children from commercial sexual exploitation. The code works to protect women and girls from sexual exploitation in the travel and tourism industries. Praxis' flagship fund, the Intermediate Income A (MIAAX), was created in 1999 and has returned 3.62% year-to-date.

Walden Asset Management

Walden Asset Management strives to invest in companies that offer vibrant equal employment opportunity programs and policies and that show diverse management teams and boards of directors. It offers a variety of equity, debt and balanced funds that focus on investing in companies that offer above-average employment policies with benefit packages and a devotion to a work-life balance. It avoids companies that show a history of discrimination. Additionally, Walden dedicates time to active shareholder engagement initiatives and advocates for inclusive non-discrimination policies.

Bottom Line

If you are looking to invest in companies that promote the empowerment of women, there are many SRI funds to choose from. These funds promote women and women’s issues by voting on company proxies and by pushing companies to hire women in high-level executive positions and to place women on company boards. (For related reading, see: The Value In Socially Responsible Investing.)

Related Articles
  1. Investing Basics

    What Are SRI Funds?

    You don't have to check your values at the door when investing in the market. Find out why.
  2. Investing

    5 Reasons to Rethink Retirement Investing

    Wherever you fall on a retirement crisis, consider these 5 reasons to rethink your investing strategy.
  3. Retirement

    Should You Pay Someone to Create a Retirement Plan?

    Nobody likes to pay for help, but it may be necessary to shell out the extra cash for proper retirement planning help.
  4. Retirement

    The Best Strategies to Maximize Your 401(k)

    Use these tips to watch your retirement nest egg grow from quarter to quarter.
  5. Financial Advisors

    Advisors: Why You Should Consider a Partnership

    Sole practitioners have their benefits but financial planners who team up with likeminded colleagues can increase revenue and improve their services.
  6. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Why ETFs Are a Smart Investment Choice for Millennials

    Exchange-traded funds offer an investment alternative to cost-conscious millennials who want to diversify their portfolios with less risk.
  7. Investing

    Asset Manager Ethics: Acting In the Benefit of Clients

    Investment managers should always act to benefit the client. Learn what actions managers should take on a client's behalf.
  8. Stock Analysis

    Will J.C. Penney Come Back in 2016? (JCP)

    J.C. Penney is without a doubt turning itself around, but that doesn't guarantee the stock will respond immediately.
  9. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Should Investors Take a BITE Out of This New ETF?

    ETF BITE offers a full menu of restaurants. Is now the right time to invest?
  10. Retirement

    The Best Strategies to Maximize Your Roth IRA

    If a Roth IRA makes sense for you, here are ways to build the biggest nest egg possible with it.
  1. Is there a difference between socially responsible investing (SRI) and green investing?

    There isn't a huge difference between socially responsible investing (SRI) and green investing; green investing is actually ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How is working capital different from fixed capital?

    There are several key differences between working capital and fixed capital. Most importantly, these two forms of capital ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Do variable annuities guarantee returns of principal?

    Variable annuities are subject to the ups and downs of the market, so they do not guarantee returns of principal. To mitigate ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Should I sell my shares if a company suspends its dividend?

    Since 2008, when the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates to zero and then kept them there indefinitely, dividend-paying ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How do hedge funds use leverage?

    Hedge funds use several forms of leverage to chase large returns. They purchase securities on margin, meaning they leverage ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How safe are variable annuities?

    Life insurance companies are facing a challenging environment. Those that sell variable annuities have been able to mitigate ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center