As many good ideas do, it started over a cup of coffee. Mette Rotbøll was in the board room of her employer, a Swiss bank, waiting for a meeting to start, when a male attendee asked her to get him a hot java. Not unusual, given that she was the only woman in a group of men, but the thing is: she was there to lead the meeting.
The memory stuck with her, and a few years later when she bumped into fellow-Dane-living-in-Switzerland Karina Storinggaard, over another cup of coffee the two decided to do something about it. They joined with Finnish ex-banker Tiia Mäkinen to start a ‘gender lens’ investment company: Think Yellow. Why yellow? Because, as Rotbøll puts it: “Yellow is sunny, and the sun shines equally on all of us.”
The Think Yellow team: Mette Rotbøll, Valentina Velandia, Tiia Mäkinen and Karina Storinggaard (from left)
19 criteria to test gender equality
Gender equality fits under the broader umbrella of Socially Responsible Investing (SRI), which includes or excludes prospective stocks according to issues such as corporate governance, environmental impact and value to society at large. Think Yellow takes its lead from Equileap, a Dutch research company that has formulated 19 criteria categorising companies as gender equal: e.g. representation of women in management, fair pay policies, flexible work hours/locations, anti-sexual harassment rules and so on. Equileap also excludes companies with records of anti-equality.
Shares of qualifying companies can be bought individually or as bundles. Already in the space are several exchange traded funds: the SPDR Gender Diversity Index started the trend in the USA and the Lyxor Global Gender Equality did the same in Europe. Think Yellow is focused along these lines, on a range of investment products.
But Think Yellow’s founders clearly are thinking about more than financial reward. While one part of their approach is adding gender criteria to investment analyses to find companies that will outperform financially, Storinggaard says, the other part “is about using capital intentionally to make a difference.” They are unabashedly out to change the world, to make financial markets ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ about gender equality.
Video interview with Karin Storinggaard & Tiia Mäkinen, Co-Founders of Think Yellow
Think Yellow Certificates Launch
To meet increasing client interest in gender lens investing, Julius Baer has teamed up with Think Yellow and will launch the Bank Julius Baer - Think Yellow Certificates today.
This family of certificates includes a global basket of 26 stocks (the Global), a benchmark of the best-in-class stocks (the Benchmark), and a basket with the stocks that perform best on gender equality in the Nordics (the Nordic Stars). All baskets used Equileap’s leading Gender Scorecard as a selection tool. This product will be the first family of certificates with the gender equality theme and offers an opportunity to smartly add a new theme into an existing investment portfolio.
This new product is part of Julius Baer’s ongoing commitment to gender equality. In the last years, the bank has initiated numerous programmes and events, including mentoring, awareness raising, networking, studies and financial support.