Rather than acting as a great equalizer, the COVID-19 pandemic has only widened the gap on existing social disparities. The effect on women in the workplace has been particularly dramatic.
While women make up 39% of the global employment workforce, they have accounted for 54% of overall job losses in the past year, and their jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to the economic impact of COVID-19, according to McKinsey & Co.
Since launching with an initial focus on the financial services sector in 2016, Bloomberg’s Gender-Equality Index (GEI) has evolved and expanded to become a comprehensive reporting framework for hundreds of firms globally to voluntarily disclose their gender-related metrics on a variety of complex factors. The framework focuses on five core pillars; female leadership and talent pipeline, equal pay and gender pay parity, anti-sexual harassment policies, inclusive culture, and pro-women brand, which refers to a company’s engagement with customers and the communities in which they operate.
In a year when both companies and investors have sharpened their focus on ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) data, the GEI has never been more vital — or more widely participated in. In just a few years’ time, the GEI has grown exponentially to include 380 companies across 11 sectors and 44 countries and regions across the globe. More broadly, more than 460 companies have voluntarily submitted their data to Bloomberg for index consideration.
“We’ve seen a tremendous increase in demand from the impact investment side to focus on ESG factors, and a significant shift in global assets towards impact investing,” said GEI Product Manager Sabina Mehmood.
“The call to action from the Black Lives Matter movement made it more urgent,” Mehmood added, particularly given the disproportionate effects of the pandemic on women of color in the workplace. “So how do we normalize the conversation around developing social strategies? The first step towards accountability is public reporting.”
With a rapidly expanding number of participants and a broad cultural emphasis on social issues, the GEI was ready for its next phase of growth. Bloomberg’s Engineering and Global Data teams have gone above and beyond in creating the Bloomberg Data Upload Portal (BDUP). For GEI participants, this system ensures a more seamless process for both the corporations to report their data and for the Bloomberg GEI team to analyze the information. The BDUP, which is available in 10 languages, is also enabling companies to contribute other information for use in additional Bloomberg data workflows.
“A company representative visits the portal, where they sign up for an account. Once they’re approved, they can log in and see the whole survey, and can save it at any point,” explains GEI data specialist Sophia Sung. “Our team works closely with the companies during the GEI data submission period, and we regularly check in with them to see if they need any additional support along the way.”
Previously, the GEI data collection process was done manually via Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. “That was obviously very labor intensive,” said ESG Data Management Team Lead Lauren Cope. With the new data upload portal, “All of that has now been semi-automated, and we’re able to tell companies ahead of time, as they’re entering data, if we believe there’s an error.”
“The comprehensive requirements of this project — from the internationalization of the UI to our need to deliver data across multiple internal systems and organizations — required our team to deploy several innovative tech stacks. For example, we were able to utilize Bloomberg Data Services (BBDS) and our Data Technologies Pipeline (DTP) to collect all these data points in a standardized format using real-time data validations and an out-of-box event pipeline for downstream publishing,” explains Shaopeng Zhang, an engineer with Bloomberg’s Data Technologies team in Princeton. “This effort has made the GEI a much more robust and scalable product.”
For corporate participants, the portal allows them to easily save their place and come back; seek input from other team members who might have better access to certain aspects of their company’s reporting data; and identify potential issues up front, with troubleshooting help from Bloomberg’s Global Data team.
“We want to make it easy to participate, easy to talk about, easy to integrate,” Mehmood said. “The Bloomberg portal has been an enormous help in creating consistency. Everyone gets a status notification at every stage of the process, all our resources have been translated into 10 languages, and you can set up institutional accounts for additional users.”
This scoring system gives users data that’s essential both for making internal reassessments and for public-facing discussions of their company’s gender parity efforts. “It arms you to go to your executive and say, ‘We have a problem here, and this is why we should do something about it,’” Mehmood explained.
The GEI and the data upload portal have proven to be a passion project for the Bloomberg team. “It’s a tremendous internal effort,” Mehmood said. “Teams are excited to collaborate on it because everybody cares about this.”
That passion is already translating into plans for the future of the GEI and the data upload portal.
“We modeled it so that it works for this year with the understanding that next year, we’re going to revisit the design to make it future-proof, so that every year, as we add more questions and expand the questionnaire, it’s more flexible,” said Technical Project Manager Yana Stoeva with Bloomberg’s Global Data department’s Technical Operations team.
This technical flexibility sets Bloomberg up to continue fostering transparency across industries.
“With the many social movements we saw gain momentum over the last year, we saw an increasing interest in the social aspects of ESG, and around diversity and inclusion in particular,” Cope said. “We’re hoping to ride that wave from a product development perspective in order to bring data for other factors to the forefront with investors, particularly around race and ethnicity.”
Cope added, “If you’re already talking to an audience within a company that’s responsible for D&I, they’re likely to have other data as well, and we see a lot of benefit to engaging them on other topics that are front-of-mind for investors.”
“Scaling and moving forward, gender is only the tip of the iceberg,” said Mehmood.
Companies that want to be considered for inclusion in the 2022 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index can now submit their gender-related data via the Gender-Equality Index (GEI) Reporting Framework. The data submission period for consideration of inclusion in the 2022 GEI is open through September 30, 2021.