Companies that tolerate harassment and unfair gender practices, she notes, risk alienating not only customers and employees, but also investors—many of whom are paying increasing attention to "ESG," or environmental, social and corporate governance, criteria in their investment decision-making.
"Investors don't want exposure to reputational blowups," Kane said. "They're also becoming increasingly conscious of how their portfolios actually line up with their personal values and beliefs."
In addition to empowering employees, safe and gender-diverse work environments are vital to the long-term health of companies. "Our research has shown that, on average, companies with a greater representation [of women] in leadership and in the Board of Directors exhibited greater profitability over a five year period, and their stock prices tended to outperform, even when we adjusted for biases like size, style and sector," Kane said.
"Investing with a Gender Lens" is a CIO theme and includes a list of companies that were screened based on a minimum level of participation in corporate leadership and that CIO's equity sector strategists view as being fundamentally attractive. Read Sustainable investing: Investing with a gender lens .