Career, Work
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Why Equality is Critical: A Chat with Pax CEO Joe Keefe

“Trading on Diversity” panel on Oct. 28, 2014. Joe Keefe, center and Lauren Young far right. (Photo: Thomson Reuters)

I have said repeatedly — and publicly — that Joe Keefe is the perfect white male.

And here’s why:

As president and CEO of Pax World Funds, Joe Keefe is leading a movement to promote women in the workplace. Earlier this year, he teamed up with Sallie Krawcheck, a former Citigroup and Bank of America executive and one of the highest-ranking women in the history of Wall Street, to create the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund. It tracks companies with the highest rating for advancing women’s leadership. Companies in the portfolio include Avon Products, where five of the beauty company’s 13 executives are women, including CEO Sheri McCoy and CFO Kimberly A. Ross. Another holding is consumer products giant Procter & Gamble, where women comprised 43.6 percent of management positions globally last year.

Keefe has dedicated his career to social change. He has served in politics and worked at several socially responsible investment firms.

He recently spoke on a panel I moderated about diversity and investing, sponsored by Thomson Reuters and the Women’s Bond Club.

At first I was kind of bummed to have him on the panel because I really wanted Sallie. But then I realized it’s so important to hear a man’s voice when you’re talking about women’s issues, because we can’t move forward without great men like Joe to help us.

When asked about why he’s such a strong supporter of women, here’s what he told me:

“I’m often asked, why does a man care so much about women’s equality? I think it’s akin to asking a white person during the 1960s why they support the civil rights movement, or a white South African 125 years ago why they were supporting Nelson Mandela and the struggle against apartheid.

There is a system of Jim Crow laws, there is still a system of apartheid, in effect around the world when it comes to women and girls. In advanced countries like the U.S., it’s more glass ceiling issues – women earning 77 cents for every dollar a man earns or women holding only 16 percent of Fortune 500 board seats. In other parts of the world, it plays out in women not being able to drive automobiles, or genital mutilation, or girls being subjected to horrific violence for the simple act of trying to attend school, or honor killings, or human trafficking.

I believe it’s the greatest human rights issue of our time. Not incidentally, it’s also the greatest economic issue of our time because there is so much value locked up inside these outdated, dim-witted patriarchal systems we allow to continue.

So much research suggests that companies perform better when women are in leadership positions. Conversely, when women aren’t represented, we are failing to realize value.

Gender equality can unleash an unprecedented period of economic growth. Doing the right thing is also doing the smart thing. It becomes an issue investors should care about. If investors invest in companies that promote women into leadership, they are going to make more money. It’s as simple as that.”

Filed under: Career, Work

by

Lauren Young

Lauren Young is the Wealth editor at Reuters, where she oversees personal finance, wealth management and investing coverage. Formerly of BusinessWeek and SmartMoney, you can find her on Twitter: @LaurenYoung

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