Gender Diversity & Future of Work Companies — We Can Do Better!

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Gender Diversity & Future of Work Companies — We Can Do Better!

Since launching the Future of Work Global Index earlier this year, we have been pouring through the publicly available data on the companies within the index. Who are the outliers and why? What makes the strong performers unique? What are some unique metrics about the segment itself?

When we launched Acadian Ventures last year, we created our core investment thesis. “Diverse Companies Win” emerged as an important theme for our fund. As I was looking at the financial performance of the index companies, I was also curious to better understand diversity — in particular gender diversity — across the companies. Do companies that focus on workforce productivity, performance, and progression “walk the walk” when it comes to diversity?

The short answer is “NO”!

Source: The Acadian Company

Sadly, most companies on the Future of Work Global Index lack gender diversity at both the board and executive level. In aggregate, of the 31 companies listed on the index, only 23.5% of executive teams are female. The average executive team included 10.8 individuals but only 2.7 of those individuals are female.

Gender diversity at the board level was even worse. Less than 1/4th (21.9%) of board members were female. On average, the board composition was 6.4 male versus 1.9 female. The most depressing statistic is only one company had a female CEO — Hayden Brown of Upwork — and she was appointed in just the last 6 months.

Source: The Acadian Company

If you look at the data on a company basis, gender diverse executive teams varied widely. It should be no surprise that Upwork’s executive team is 55% female. Other gender diverse executive teams include Fiverr (40%), Smartsheet (38%), and 51job (38%). A few companies stood out for their lack of executive gender diversity including Atlassian (0%) and Paycom (0%). Interestingly, 5 companies, all based outside of the United States, lacked any female board members.

Lastly, we wanted to see if there was any correlation between financial performance and gender diversity. Unfortunately, we aren’t yet witnessing any correlation between financial performance, as measured by revenue multiple, and the percentage of female executives. I would expect a higher correlation of diversity and performance over time.

It should be noted that many of the companies lacking executive and board diversity have recently launched comprehensive diversity and inclusion programs. Of note, we credit companies like Atlassian that have active, company-wide diversity initiatives and publicly share their diversity statistics.

Source: Atlassian (

Suffice to say we need our leading companies to put great focus, emphasis, and priority on diversity at all levels. We encourage all companies — public and private — to share the diversity programs and results because the rising tide will lift all boats.

Note: The gender diversity data is based on publicly available information from the respective companies website and listing of their executives as of March 31, 2020. The financial performance data is based on market data as of April 21, 2020.

(Cross-posted @ Arcadian Insights – Jason Corsello)