Clearing the path

Empowering Women's financial success

The commercial imperative of DE&I

Diversity in your business means more representation and more growth. We consider why diverse workforces and inclusive corporations matter for entrepreneurs and executives.
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The world is experiencing a period of profound economic and social change. The so-called ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ represents a period of structural change driven by technologies such as automation and robotics, artificial intelligence, and a proliferation of big data. The outcomes of this revolution-commercial, economic, environmental, and social-hinge on how people use these technologies.

As the world becomes more complex, the value of problem-solving skills and creativity will rise. More diverse workforces correlate with higher levels of innovation in knowledge-based industries. And how companies deploy people will drive success. Inclusivity will matter more for countries and companies seeking to maximize productivity.

Making the commercial case, in terms of financial benefits and costs, can complement the moral, political, and philosophical cases for diversity and inclusion.

The impacts of diversity -or a lack of it-can be measured and debated using both data and human stories.  The economic and quantitative evidence may, however, help to accelerate positive economic and social change.

Evidence is particularly important in those countries and companies that are least prepared for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Data can help drive diversity and inclusion in countries whose cultural customs have slowed or hampered greater equality of opportunity to date.

We look at three channels for diversity and inclusion to impact financial outcomes:

  1. labor markets
  2. innovation
  3. market acces

As in all prior industrial revolutions, new technologies have the potential to replace jobs. Economists estimate that between 10% and 15% of jobs may be lost to automation over the next 20 years.

However, net jobs figures will likely show that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is positive for employment. Historically, industrial revolutions have created new industries and previously unimagined roles.

In a world where machines and humans increasingly work together, the benefit of having the right workers in the right places at the right time will likely increase.

Having strategies to attract diverse workers to fill talent gaps-regardless of background-will become more important. The costs of prejudice in the labor market may rise. While the costs will likely differ for each firm, it is possible to provide some quantitative examples. Between 1994 and 2010, the US military fired 14,000 LGBTQ+ staff if they revealed their gender or sexual orientation. Companies that encourage gender diversity and inclusion have been shown to benefit commercially compared to peers.

In a world of rapid change, the benefit of having the right ideas for the right markets at the right time will likely increase. Crucially for business owners, entrepreneurs, and executives, the costs of not being innovative in a period of profound societal change will also likely rise.

New technologies can generate commercial benefits. But it is the applications and use of those technologies that historically have generated the biggest gains to people, planet, and profits.

Research concludes that diversity-whether of thinking, gender, demography, or other attributes-can enhance innovation. One study from Deloitte Insights found diversity can boost innovation by 20% and reduce risks (which may be overlooked in “groupthink” or monocultures) by 30%.

In periods of structural change, new applications of technology can create previously unimagined risks. Diverse teams may bring a richer perspective that can identify such risks and manage them effectively. Less diverse teams may rely on their status quo thinking or be slower to change.

Diversity benefits businesses because it can bring together people to solve complex problems. These problems require different skills or approaches: analyzing evidence, weighing options, predicting and planning for outcomes, accounting for the impact on people; building of processes; and risk management. It is unlikely any person excels in each of these six fields. Collective intelligence of different abilities and a variety of social connections is therefore important.

New communication technologies have increased the benefits of diversity and inclusion as a tool to access new markets.

It is becoming more important to have the right people to appeal to diverse, values-driven customers looking for personalized goods and services.

In a world where technology allows for greater personalization of goods and services, a diverse and inclusive workforce is more likely to understand consumer problems and design personalized solutions that match the customer’s particular needs.

This is not to say, for example, that a skin care company can only design personalized skin care products if it has at least one employee in the gender, ethnicity, or race for which it wants to cater. This does not mean that designers of later-living retirement homes or lifelong learning apps need to be older people to understand particular needs.

But it does mean that companies may find it more efficient to employ a diverse workforce and build an inclusive environment to counteract the effects of standardization that seeks to satisfy the non-existent "average" consumer.

The commercial benefits of being a diverse and inclusive business are not just theoretical. A large and growing body of literature presents the evidence for more diverse businesses being more profitable.

This does not mean small and mid-sized private enterprises find building a diverse and inclusive business easy.

Becoming more diverse and inclusive can, in practice, lead business owners and entrepreneurs to make well-intentioned mistakes.

Every business is different. Each will have its own successes and points for improvement when fostering a more diverse and inclusive workplace.

What are the challenges and misconceptions around DE&I?

We discuss three types of diversity and inclusion challenges or misconceptions-and suggest some alternative perspectives and potential solutions.

Misconception 1

Diversity and inclusion strategies should look the same for every company

Companies that want to build a more diverse and inclusive workforce cannot start without considering the legal, political, and social conditions of where they operate. These conditions vary considerably across countries. Every business will therefore have a different strategy for diversity and inclusion.

Diversity and inclusion do not have equal commercial and societal impact across industries or sectors either.

The gains from diversity and inclusion from risk management, complex problem solving, or innovation may be greater for certain types of companies.

In other words, diversity and inclusion yield greater benefits in the knowledge economy-in sectors such as the legal, financial, creative, or technology industries-and in high-value-added service sectors.

Diversity and inclusion may yield fewer (commercial) benefits for businesses with homogeneous products or services or where a firm follows a consistent, repetitive process. Indeed, repetitive tasks with replicable processes-clerical roles or truck driving for example-and lower added economic value may be most ripe for automation in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Misconception 2

Top management is exclusively responsible for diversity and inclusion strategies’ success

Leaders will need to support efforts if a business is to become more diverse and inclusive. Corporate culture changes are likely only to endure if top managers are committed to a diversity and inclusion strategy in both word and deed.

The strategy also must be credible to stakeholders and consistent with the overall business objectives-the latter being set by top management.

A diversity and inclusion strategy should be seen and be evident-as opposed to senior managers talking about it but failing to evidence it through attending diversity events or building a diverse and inclusive management team around them.

However, business owners and entrepreneurs should not underestimate the roles of middle managers, teams, and employees in driving diversity and inclusion.

  1. Diversity and inclusion models must listen to the needs, concerns, and aspirations of underrepresented groups
  2. Second, overreliance on top managers and dedicated diversity and inclusion departments to drive change can be counter-productive
  3. Third, diversity and inclusion strategies are only effective if top managers’ messages match with aligned policies for underrepresented groups that middle managers and the whole firm put into practice

Ultimately, middle managers and employees will make most business decisions where diversity and inclusion factors matter, such as hiring and managing employees.

Misconception 3

The objective of diversity and inclusion strategies is to drive equal outcomes

Diversity and inclusion strategies can support this need if they help companies to hire, promote and retain the best qualified workers, regardless of differences in personal characteristics.

However, business owners and entrepreneurs might consider the difference between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome when implementing diversity and inclusion strategies.

Unconscious biases and prejudices can mean that certain groups of people are underrepresented, overlooked, or discriminated against in hiring and promotion decisions.

These biases can be reinforcing such that it requires cultural change to break the mold of a monoculture. Diverse and inclusive companies work to reduce these biases and prejudices by designing policies that promote equality of opportunity.

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for any business to become more commercially successful through diversity and inclusion.

Focus on diversity and inclusion awareness and education

Successful companies consist of people that understand the opportunities a diverse and inclusive workforce can bring-and the barriers or prejudices certain groups might face based on their personal characteristics.

Conversations about prejudice or exclusive environments can be difficult for underrepresented groups and privileged groups. It would be important to create the right environment for affinity groups to gather and share their experiences across the firm. But it is also important to encourage privileged groups to be their own tutors.

Rethink your organizational management structure

Diversity and inclusion depend on people, by building varied teams of employees, being open to varied ideas, having a mindset to drive innovation, and responding to the various needs of different stakeholders. But successful diversity and inclusion strategies also depend on processes. Evaluating and amending organizational management could therefore be critical to reaping the commercial benefits of diversity and inclusion.

Unconscious bias is part of the fabric of society and, indeed, of many companies. Business owners, executives, and entrepreneurs may begin by considering their hiring processes. Can more be done to find talented, diverse people for a flexible role, rather than following a traditional, restrictive approach of having a set role?

Create a healthy culture of challenge

Successfully becoming a more diverse and inclusive company that delivers better commercial results and a greater societal impact is not a one-time effort. Doing so will likely require a culture of continuous challenge.

This challenge can take several forms. It may begin by remembering that prejudice is any form of irrational discrimination.

Business owners need to distinguish between rational and irrational discrimination. It would be irrational not to hire someone with the right skills for the job simply because of their race, sexual orientation, or because they support a rival sporting team to the hiring manager. It may be rational to charge different customers different prices if, for instance, they buy different products or buy in bulk.

There is growing evidence that makes the commercial case for diversity and inclusion. But as the structural changes of the Fourth Industrial Revolution advance, it is likely that the economic and societal case for diversity and inclusion will also rise.

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Closing the gender funding gap

Female entrepreneurs, globally, receive less funding than men

The growth in women’s investable wealth has outpaced men’s between 2016 and 2020 (CAGR of 8.2% versus 5.9%) and is expected to continue to grow more rapidly than men’s over the period until 2025. However, despite this significant financial progress, women continue to encounter unequal treatment across various levels of the business world and society, facing substantial obstacles for example when raising capital.

Female entrepreneurs, globally, receive less funding than their male counterparts. This reality is even more pronounced for women of color and those in developing countries and comes at a great cost to gender parity efforts.

As a result of this funding discrepancy, female entrepreneurs lack equal opportunities to innovate and build successful companies that can contribute to the global economy.

There is an abundance of evidence to suggest that women entrepreneurs, who re­ceive funding, develop businesses that perform as well, or even better, than their male counterparts, which suggests investors are missing out on attractive invest­ment opportunities.

There have been numerous studies as well as a plethora of media coverage on the funding gap that exists between women en­trepreneurs and their male counterparts. This greater awareness is helpful, but the stark reality is women entrepreneurs, particularly those of color and those living in developing countries, do not have equal access to funding.

  • All-Female-founded companies often face challenges in securing investment compared to their male counterparts, despite demonstrating higher revenue and return on investment.
  • There persists a lack of women in investment decision-making roles, exacerbating the finance gap, as investors typically favor teams that resemble them.
  • Women lack of networking opportunities, according to our research men are more likely to be part of a social network that included other men, while most of the non-investing women did not know any female peers or role models who were angel investors.

The numbers speak for themselves

  • 0 %

    Less than 3% of funding goes to companies with a female CEO.

  • 0 %

    Less than 0.2% of all venture capital funding goes to female entrepreneurs of color.

  • 0 %

    86% of all venture capital-funded businesses have no women in management positions.

  • 0 %

    Women-owned businesses only receive 21% of the nearly USD 1 million median investment that businesses generally receive.

Funding distribution by gender

Funding for female-only businesses

Early Rounds: Female-only businesses receive 7% of seed funding.

Series A: Female-only businesses receive 5%.

Series B: Female-only businesses receive 3%.

Series C+: Female-only businesses receive 2%.

Funding for female/male co-founded businesses

Female/male co-founded start-ups receive 14% (seed)

Female/male co-founded start-ups receive 10% (series A)

Female/male co-founded start-ups receive 13% (series B)

Female/male co-founded start-ups receive 10% (series C+)

Why does it matter?

Despite female-led businesses outperforming male-led ones by 63%, they receive only about 2% of global venture capital funding. Our research paper, 'The Funding Gap,' highlights this disparity, hindering gender parity and potentially causing investors to overlook lucrative opportunities.

Taking action: What can be done?

In the context of obtaining VC financing, which observations could be taken that could help women navigate those hurdles?

a greater awareness of the funding gap needs to be established, and the shortcomings and opportunity costs involved need to be made clear. In this context, greater transparency around the funding gap is a key first step toward re­solving the problem.

is to identify and share remedies as to how this gap can be reduced, such as by better understanding the underlying reasons for its existence and taking action to eliminate bias and level the playing field.

For example, by ensuring that they ask an equal amount of ‘growth’ compared with ‘prevention’ questions to all founders, irrespective of their gender, or through evaluating pitch decks through “blindfold” pro­cesses.

Tackling the bias that exists dur­ing the VC funding process and encouraging VCs to hire more women investors seems key.

Media coverage plays an important role in showcasing successful business ventures, in particular when female entrepreneurs are able to inspire other women to embark on the entrepreneurial journey, and who help these women believe in their poten­tial, while also helping to reduce the perceived association of entrepreneurship as a male-dominated activity.

all of us can reflect on how our conscious and unconscious bias propagates itself, and by recognizing our own failings, we can go some way to righting the wrongs and better support women in their entrepreneurial journey.

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Empowering Women within DE&I

What makes Women’s wealth journey different?

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Our diversity, equity & inclusion strategy

Our clients

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We’re helping our clients identify and act on opportunities to create a better world by:

  • providing access to ideas, insights and people focused on inclusive growth;
  • empowering investors to support DE&I through investment choices;
  • offering philanthropic strategies that help clients embed DE&I in their legacy building; and
  • developing new business ventures and initiatives tailored for investors who typically are not well served by our industry, such as the next generation, women and ethnically diverse investors, as well as entrepreneurs, athletes and entertainers.

Our communities and society

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We seek to drive inclusive growth for communities that continue to be denied equitable access to opportunity and capital, including women and ethnically diverse people, through our programs for students and entrepreneurs by:

  • partnering with non-profit organizations that are changing futures through education and skills-building initiatives;
  • engaging a multisector coalition of government, non-profit, public-sector and corporate stakeholders;
  • providing volunteering and mentoring programs for our employees;
  • sharing our expertise and insight to raise awareness; and
  • partnering with our clients to effect the change that they want to see.

Our suppliers and vendors

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We’re committed to contributing to the economic growth of businesses that are often underrepresented as corporate suppliers by:

  • maintaining an internal database of diverse suppliers;
  • driving greater diversity and inclusion in sourcing opportunities;
  • partnering with diversity advocacy organizations; and
  • looking for additional diverse suppliers in identified areas of opportunity.


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Our accountability framework embodies the oversight of the Group Executive Board (GEB) and its commitment to achieving our aspirational goals, along with empowering leaders to drive our DE&I strategy forward. We use data monitoring, fair pay practices, management dashboards, and toolkits to support accountability.

All our GEB members and their leadership teams are evaluated on their efforts toward achieving our aspirations.  Furthermore, supporting business-led DE&I councils and people forums ensures that accountability is a shared responsibility Group-wide.  Externally, we engage with public and private initiatives to support the progression of women into senior roles and to publicly report on progress.

It is important to note that improving representation is rarely linear. Moreover, progress is based in part on drivers like promotion rates, as well as on various business and market conditions, employees’ willingness to self-disclose demographic information, and other factors. We therefore aim to ensure that every element of our people management process is a positive influence.

Our DE&I four pillars

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Our accountability framework embodies the oversight of the Group Executive Board (GEB) and its commitment to achieving our aspirational goals, along with empowering leaders to drive our DE&I strategy forward. We use data monitoring, fair pay practices, management dashboards, and toolkits to support accountability.

All our GEB members and their leadership teams are evaluated on their efforts toward achieving our aspirations.  Furthermore, supporting business-led DE&I councils and people forums ensures that accountability is a shared responsibility Group-wide.  Externally, we engage with public and private initiatives to support the progression of women into senior roles and to publicly report on progress.

It is important to note that improving representation is rarely linear. Moreover, progress is based in part on drivers like promotion rates, as well as on various business and market conditions, employees’ willingness to self-disclose demographic information, and other factors. We therefore aim to ensure that every element of our people management process is a positive influence.

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Over the past five years, we’ve put strong foundational processes in place to optimize diverse hiring even in uncertain markets and times of considerable attrition.

We continue to focus on training recruiters and hiring managers to help mitigate unconscious bias in the hiring process and hire the best-suited candidate for each role, regardless of background.

In 2023, our hiring ratios were strong for women at all levels (43.3% hired compared with 40.9% headcount representation). Our ethnicity hiring ratios improved for US talent (46.9% hired compared with 31.9% headcount representation), UK talent (40.4% hired compared with 29.2% headcount representation), and for UK Black talent (16.4% hired compared with 3.6% headcount representation).

Graph of headcount representation
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Part of building an inclusive workplace is providing equitable access to advancement opportunities. To help ensure employees at all career stages have equitable development opportunities, we sponsor key talent and leadership development programs. As examples, in 2023, our new Growth Alignment Experience was launched for Associate Director and Director level employees of UBS Group excluding Credit Suisse in the US identified through a self-nomination process.

Over a six-month period, 50 initial participants worked with external coaching professionals to enhance their strategic planning skills, expand their networks and build connections.

The strength and potential of our development programs and talent processes were reflected in female promotion rates for 2023 at Director, Executive Director and Managing Director levels. For example, 35.6% of Director level and above promotions were female (compared with 31.5% in 2022). Similarly, the US ethnic minority rate for Director level and above promotions was 33.9% in 2023 (vs. 19.6% in 2022) and the UK ethnic minority rate for Director level and above promotions was 28.7% in 2023 (vs. 24.8% in 2022).

Graph of headcount representation
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A sense of belonging helps drive engagement and is important for overall well-being. We strive to create an environment where every employee feels they have a place and are recognized and respected for who they are and what they add to our workplace.

Many of our policies, including fair pay and equal opportunities, along with highly valued employee options such as hybrid working arrangements, support a workplace environment that fosters belonging.

In the same way, our 64 combined employee networks are vital to building a sense of belonging and strengthening our inclusive culture. Whether the topic is gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, culture, ethnic diversity, cultural background, disability, parenting, elder care, veteran status or life stage, employee volunteers in every region host numerous events every year to promote understanding, engagement and belonging, and to support our overall DE&I strategy. All employee networks were integrated by the end of 2023 with Credit Suisse, enabling us to combine programming and resources and to extend our networks’ impact to a much larger audience.

UBS's Initiatives for Women

UBS Female founder award and program

UBS published "The Funding Gap: Investors and Female Entrepreneurs" report in 2023, examining reasons behind the funding gap and identifying ways to narrow it.

The UBS Female Founders program comprises an annual award (The Female Founder Award) and also an accelerator program, Project Female Founder, that runs in partnership between the Women’s Wealth program and UBS Next, the firm's venture and innovation arm, and aims to tackle the gender funding gap by offering opportunities for female founders to access the UBS venture ecosystem. Through this collaboration, we strive to empower women in entrepreneurship and foster their success in the competitive landscape of innovation and investment.

Women and electronics
Three women are in discussion

Project Female Founder

The year-long accelerator program for female entrepreneurs is designed to equip them with essential skills for investor readiness, networking, and mentorship. Our goal is to assist early-stage female founders in overcoming obstacles and gearing up for expansion. Through partnerships like Fortuna Funding's eight-week investor readiness and pitch practice program, mentorship from UBS Client Advisors, and access to the global Coralus network for mentorship and connectivity, we provide comprehensive support. Now in its third year, the program has experienced a significant uptick, with a 70% increase in applications. Over 60 UBS Client Advisors and 75 founders from various corners of the globe have participated, demonstrating the program's global reach and impact.

Testimonials, such as Kimberley Abbott's success with Vested, underscore the transformative impact of UBS's programs.

The UBS Female Founder Award and program has been one of the most transformative experiences for myself, as a leader, and also for my company.
- Kimberley Abbott, founder and CEO of Vested

The Female Founder Award is an annual program that celebrates exceptional entrepreneurial accomplishments within the fintech and enterprise tech sectors.

Impact and research

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UBS has been focused for over a decade now on better serving the financial needs of women, since global research continues to show that women’s financial needs are not being met and that they different to those of men.

We have been very focused reimagining the delivery of wealth advice for women, ensuring that our advisors are having the right kind of conversations with female clients.  These conversations are changing with the increasing ownership and control of wealth by women (project to be 35% of global investible wealth by 2025 – see UBS CIO 2022 ‘Women and investing: reimagining wealth advice’).

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We have continued to publish research to guide women on investing (since 2017) and this year we have published the report “Women and Investing - Achieving lifetime goals” in 2024 looking at how women can build a strong investment strategy and portfolio to help them achieve their lifetime goals in a world where the gender gap persist.

UBS Published the report “Women and Investing Planning for your legacy” in 2024 looking at how women investors define legacy, their concerns, how they can best allocate their resources to meet their objectives, and how it is important that they also put a financial plan in place for the smooth transfer of their wealth.

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This research holds paramount importance for both our clients and us at UBS. For our clients, particularly women investors and entrepreneurs, these reports serve as resources providing insights, guidance, and strategies tailored to their unique financial journeys. By addressing the gender gap in investing and entrepreneurship head-on, we empower our clients to navigate the financial landscape with confidence, ensuring they can effectively plan for their future, achieve their goals, and safeguard their legacy.

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UBS hosts numerous events around the world to engage women with investing, sharing our financial confidence tools to support (see

We also have focused regional programs to drive engagement with women, for example in the Middle East where we host regular events to encourage female financial empowerment and create dedicated thought-leadership to support this (see our report ‘Women and investing – voices from MENA’

UBS actively cultivates diverse networks through strategic networking initiatives aimed at tackling access-to-funding challenges. Engaging in global endeavors like the Council for Investing in Female Entrepreneurs in the UK underscores our dedication to fostering public-private partnerships in support of female entrepreneurship. These initiatives are designed to empower women entrepreneurs across all phases of their journey, offering the resources and assistance needed to excel in dynamic markets.