March 8 marks International Women’s Day, a global celebration of women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements.
In recent years, women have made significant strides on numerous fronts. For example, in 2018, 25.7% of board of directors positions in Fortune 1000 companies were filled by women, compared to 19.6% in 2011. Also, women constituted 30% of the parliamentary representation in the lower house or unicameral parliaments of 39 countries as of May 1, 2014, up from 16% in 2004. In the United Church of Christ setting, 51% of the ordained clergy is female.
Although these numbers look promising, progress is still slow. Women’s voices and opportunities are often stifled by stereotypes, social norms, and cultural beliefs.
When we look at this in the microcosm of a church, a question that often arises is how a church’s endowment can support women’s empowerment?
Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) refers to investment strategies that seek not only to provide a competitive financial return but remain consistent with moral values and have a positive impact on society. SRI takes into account an array of issues that impact women such as board diversity, gender equality, and human rights.
SRI strategies include shareholder resolutions that seek a specific change; corporate engagements, which encourage better policies and practices; exclusionary screening, which evolved from faith callings; and proxy voting, which allows investors to exercise their fiduciary responsibility and weigh in on issues that matter to them.
Since the mid-1990s, UCF, along with other members of US SIF and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, have filed more than 100 shareholder proposals to promote board diversity.
In addition, we have intentional proxy voting policies that direct our ballots to vote against a board that has no diversity – as a signal to corporations that they must strive for diversity and women in leadership roles.
Internally, UCF periodically conducts a diversity survey of its investment managers. We talk to our managers to determine the number of women who hold portfolio manager positions and higher. It’s been shown that a higher the number of C-Suite female employees translates into better performance.
Your church can support women’s socio-economic advancement through your investment portfolio. The following is a brief guideline to help get you started:
To learn more about how UCF helps faith-based organizations support women’s empowerment through SRI, please contact Kathryn McCloskey, Director of Social Responsibility at (877) 806-4989 or [email protected].
 Investing to Advance Women, US SIF Foundation
 “Women in National Parliaments,” accessed July 7, 2014, ipu.org/wmn-e/arc/classif050599.htm