Our recently released Global Gender Wealth Equity Report found that there’s a significant wealth gap between men and women. In fact, the difference is so stark that women are expected to accumulate only 74% of the wealth that men do at retirement.
The research highlights many reasons for this disparity across five regions and 39 markets, including the interlinked effects of career, family support, life events and financial literacy.
In this ESG Spotlight webcast, we're joined by a diverse WTW cast that dives deeper into this pressing issue. They discuss:
New research from WTW and the World Economic Forum point out a significant gender wealth gap between men and women at retirement. We explore the effects of career, family support, life events and financial literacy on wealth accumulation.
The role of gender in wealth equity
SPEAKER 1: Welcome to WTW's ESG In Sight Spotlight Series.
JOHN BREMEN: Hello and welcome to today's webcast, the Global Gender Wealth Equity Index and the Role of Gender in Wealth Equity. I'm John Bremen, Chief Innovation and Acceleration Officer at WTW, and I'll be your host today.
The debate around inequities between men and women in the professional space have picked up substantially as of late with the increased focus on ESG and other related factors really sparking a lot of discussion on many things. We're talking more and more about diversity and equity, but these discussions are having a real impact-- becomes the question. And we wonder how much the discussions and the actions really are driving change and narrowing things like the gender wealth equity gap.
An exciting new WTW study, led by Manjit Basi, who I'll introduce shortly but is with me here today, finds that there may be work yet to be done. And the Wealth Equity Index that is discussed and introduced in the report measures women's wealth in relation to men's at retirement and assigns each country a number between 0 and 1, with 1 being full equity.
And what's special about this particular research is that it doesn't look at this issue through a single lens, so for example, a single lens of pay or pensions or career. It looks at all of them into in an interdependent, intermingled way when it comes to a woman's working life. And so this research takes a holistic view, including all of these factors together, and represents them in a single metric that, again, we call the Wealth Equity Index.
And we're very excited to be joined by a diverse cast today from all over the world with different walks of life, with different types of experience, to tell you about this research and to really bring it to life in a very real way. And to start with, Manjit is going to introduce the Global Gender Wealth Equity Report, discuss why the research is important, share a little about the methodology and how we got here, and talk through the key findings.
We're also going to hear from two panel discussions, one that will take us through a deep dive on Asia specifically, moderated by Amanda Scott. We'll hear how our colleagues across this diverse region have responded to this research and what they feel should come next.
The second panel of the day will focus on next steps for employers. Obviously, this is a problem that can't be solved by any one employer or even all employers alone, but there are certain actions that they can take to create positive change and, again, begin reducing some of the gaps in pay, the way women's careers are nurtured, pensions, and a whole bunch of other factors. So without further ado, let's jump into this exciting research with our first speaker. Manjit, over to you.
MANJIT BASI: Thank you, John. I'm Manjit Basi, and I'm so thrilled to be here today to talk through the insights. It's been an absolute pleasure to lead the thought leadership for this research on gender wealth equity and the amazing collaboration with the World Economic Forum.
I'm going to start with a couple of opening comments. Firstly, I want to acknowledge that there's long-standing societal and business inequities that disparately affect the career experiences of women. Until now, we've looked at different and siloed aspects of gender equity and particularly pay equity, benefits equity, and leadership equity, but we have not taken a close look at the holistic view of the working lifetime. Nor have we measured the inequity in wealth accumulation, what we're going to refer to today as the gender wealth gap.
With the rise of DEI and ESG focus, it gave us impetus to take a closer look at this underrepresented area of gender equity and to give companies an opportunity to develop targeted actions that can bring equalized wealth for women at the end of their careers. So what I'll cover today is to go through some of the details, why we did the research, why I think it's so important for companies and individuals to do something now, then some key findings and some country results as well.
There's compelling data out there showing that wealth inequity for women is a global reality. And we've seen all these numbers, and many have lived this reality. Time and again, data shows us that this is a genuine issue around wealth inequity for women.
I'm going to share a couple of points that can help demonstrate this. So starting with pay, on average, women will earn less money than men, so both base pay and also variable compensation, and in terms of top earners, females will earn less than their male counterparts with similar skills and experience. And then women are more likely to leave the workforce for short or long periods for childcare and family commitments. We also see that women retire on smaller pensions.
Let's also focused on investment behaviors and what we know. There's a couple of proof points to share. So firstly, less than a quarter of women globally will oversee the long-term financial planning decisions for their households, and secondly, over half of women want to be more confident in their decision making. And then for a double whammy for women, they're also going to live longer. So age-65 women are over 1.5 times more likely to live in poverty than men.
There's a lot of global data out there, but from what I've seen it's always consistent in its message. It only varies in magnitude between the regions. Let's look at why we prioritize gender wealth equity now because companies have a lot of competing objectives. Gender equity is often considered a societal problem, but today, you'll hear it's also a commercial problem, too, because there's a serious opportunity lost if women cannot achieve their full wealth potential.
I'd like to group these issues that you see here into three general categories. The first is around the business. It's a fact that having a focus on gender pays off in real business terms. Numerous studies show that having more equitable representation in C-suite and boards will result in an uptick in financial performance. There's also a recent broader study that demonstrated that when companies have taken a holistic approach towards equal gender representation, their business will outperform less diverse peers.
And secondly, there's a war for female talent and especially with the great resignation that we're seeing currently. This is fairly consistent across the regions, but it's driving employers to consider what can they do to become an employer of choice.
Having a focus on gender can help attract and retain talented women, and it also sends a signal to the broader labor force that the employer cares about the issues. And that's becoming more and more attractive to a younger labor force. And realizing DEI priorities-- not only is this a valuable activity in itself, but additionally, it's a pull factor for diverse employees such as women who are looking to join an organization.
Well-being-- especially during the pandemic, there's been a large focus on other areas of well-being, social, emotional, and physical, and less focus on financial, so it's now time to elevate the attention on this aspect, too. So we can look at all the areas of well-being. And looking ahead to the slowdown in the global economies, a focus on financial well-being could be critical for employees to help them manage their current and their future wealth.
And the final area is compliance. Those macro trends, which are creating pressures on the ESG agenda, is coming from investors, regulators, employees, as well as future hires. And with many countries who've recently introduced gender equity legislation, it will be important for employers to address, especially in regions such as Europe and North America and most recently in Japan with the introduction of new gender pay legislation there.
Let me now set the stage for the discussion on the research. So we've given the background and why it's important, but what was the idea for the research? Well, to begin with, it was reasoned that there's a life cycle that both men and women go through with various milestones. Some aspects are within the scope of what an employer can see, such as professional roles, career progression stages, and pay, but then there's other areas that happen in personal lives and are often less visible, such as buying a house, eldercare, or health needs, and some which are more visible, such as having children or getting married.
This leads us to the hypothesis that there's inequitable wealth outcomes by gender at the end of a working lifetime. So very simply, if a male and female are starting a career in similar roles and pay, by the time they get to the end of their working lifetime, they'll have very different accumulated wealth, and so the various events and milestones are making women worse off.
Of course, having seen real examples where some employees can retire in their 50s in some countries-- and then we see women who may have been at the workforce or have lower-paid roles. They'll need to continue working for many more years. These are examples that helped establish the hypothesis. Before going into the key findings, I'd like to share a bit more about the Index itself. Essentially, the Index is a ratio that compares the female accumulated wealth with male accumulated wealth at the end of a working lifetime. And secondly, it assigns for each market a number between 0 and 1 with indices close to 1 being close to perfect equity and indices close to 0 be more inequitable.
And then the analysis focused on four key areas, and this is where this study really differentiates itself from others in the space because historically, when we look at issues of gender, we always look at them through a single lens, whether it's pay equity, women in leadership, or the gender pensions gap. But this research is bringing together different factors from life events, family, career, and financial aspects. So it's much more holistic, and it's focused on the whole career period. But at the same time, it's providing one number which is easy to understand and when equity and wealth accumulation can be measured consistently across the countries.
So now let's get to the key findings, but there are two important points to share first. One is that these calculations were complex. We looked at different types of wealth, various lifetime scenarios, the distributions of the types of roles, the differences in financial literacy, and much more. For each time, the focus was on looking at the relative lens from male to female wealth because this allowed us to see the relative inequity in the wealth accumulation at the end of a career. And I do want to say that we weren't looking at the absolute amount or the sufficiency of wealth. That's actually a linked consideration but through a financial resilience lens.
So back to the findings-- so we calculated the index for 39 countries, and we found that the average Global Wealth Equity Index across the countries was 0.74, which means that women are expected to accumulate only 74% of the wealth that men do upon retirement. And then the country indices also ranged from 0.6 to 0.9, so we saw a significant variation of gender wealth equity between individual countries.
And then secondly, for the study, we consider the diversity of the roles and the seniority in the workforce and then the impact that this would have on the wealth accumulation, and we found that women in senior positions had the largest gaps in accumulated wealth because they faced the compounded effect of lower salary increments and more limited career progression. We also saw a lot of wealth gaps for frontline operational and manual roles.
And then we looked at various areas of the wealth accumulation, whether it's from personal savings, the government benefits, real estate, or employer-provided pensions. And one of the key findings was the importance of employer sponsored plans and for wealth accumulation the impact that pay inequity between genders would have because if a woman tends to have a lower salary, then this directly affects the contributions and their ability to accumulate similar wealth.
And family caregiving-- this had a negative impact on women's ability to accumulate wealth. The family responsibilities tend to take women out of the workforce, to have career breaks, or to take more part-time work. And with less working hours or working years, they're obviously going to accumulate less wealth, too.
One observation was around what would happen if women had the money to invest, so we observed investment behaviors. And we saw that women typically had different financial awareness, investor confidence, and risk tolerance compared to men. Throughout their careers, they're less financially aware, less confident in investing, and we saw that they may hold on to cash more frequently or be making more short-term financial decisions. And all of these behaviors combined had a resultant effect on their wealth.
Having looked at the findings, we come to an important area to understand the primary drivers that impact women's ability to accumulate equitable wealth, and these were the gender pay gaps, delayed career trajectories, the caregiving and family responsibilities outside the workplace, and financial literacy. Here, we have a heatmap, and this gives a broad representation of what the numbers look like across the globe. And the first point is that women are at a disadvantage globally. It ranges from countries at the lower end, such as India and Argentina, and up to the higher end.
And these countries are where we have the least inequity between male and female wealth at the end of the working career, and they were specifically Spain and South Korea. And this is interesting because once in North Asia, and one is in Southern Europe. So it's all very different in many ways.
I'm now going to draw out a couple of examples and explain the Index results for that country. As I said, one of the high countries was Spain, and here, the accumulation of wealth for women was almost at par with men for frontline workers. But then we saw a similar situation for other roles, too. We noticed that social security pensions were a key part of the accumulated wealth, so although there's gender pay gaps, there's actually an earnings cap on the benefit. So the Index value does not show a significant gap between men and women.
If I go to a second example in Europe, the Netherlands, we saw a relatively greater disparity of wealth across all levels. As I said earlier, we did project wealth from different sources. In the case of Netherlands, we observed that there was a prevalence of employer-sponsored retirement plans, which were linked to pay, and these are without a pay cap. Therefore, there was a direct correlation between the pay gaps and delayed career trajectories and the inequitable wealth accumulation.
If we go across to Asia, we can see one of the largest wealth gaps is for India, as there are several factors which combine to pull down the Index value. So women had children at an earlier age. They assumed childcare responsibilities, and when they're on the workforce, they have more significant pay gaps. At the same time, they had lower financial literacy and less responsibility for long-term financial decision making. Bringing these together, the compounded factors led to a bigger gender wealth gap.
In LATAM, the gender wealth gap is the largest in Argentina at 61%, which is also the second-lowest index amongst the countries included. There's a relatively high proportion of women in professional leadership roles in Argentina, but this is where we find the pay and wealth gaps are larger. So this reduces the Index and represents more wealth inequity.
Another factor that we need to consider specifically for Argentina is a hyperinflationary environment, which erodes the real value of the savings. We see something that's very relevant today as we see rising inflation globally.
So what I've shared today is just a couple of examples, but the real power of the analysis is for companies to be inspired to think about the multifaceted problem, where they're located, who their employees are, and then to be encouraged to own actions that will make a positive change to narrow the gender wealth gap.
Please let me introduce the next segment now. This is where we're going to put more color into the findings, so we're going to have a deep dive into Asia. We'll hear from three of our Asian colleagues talking about their responses to questions around the research findings, and then I'll circle back with some colleagues to discuss the actions.
AMANDA SCOTT: Hi. I'm Amanda Scott, Global Mergers and Acquisitions Leader at WTW, and it's a pleasure to be here to discuss such a critical topic. And I'm delighted to be joined by Josephine Chow, a pension actuary and business leader of M&A consulting services--
JOSEPHINE CHOW: Hello.
AMANDA SCOTT: --in China and Taiwan. And you've been with WTW for over 30 years.
JOSEPHINE CHOW: Yes.
AMANDA SCOTT: Fantastic. I'm also here with Rajesh Daswani, who's a senior director in global benefits, and you're working in Singapore and Hong Kong for more than 25 years. Fantastic.
RAJESH DASWANI: Thank you.
AMANDA SCOTT: And Caroline Kok, who's been working over 10 years in employee benefits. So thank you very much for joining us as well.
So one of our key findings was that the gender wealth gap actually grows with seniority, and often, that's due to delayed career progression and the gender pay gap. So as a senior leader, did this finding surprise you, and what's your take from an Asia perspective, Jo?
JOSEPHINE CHOW: Thank you, Amanda. As a female growing up in Taiwan with long stay in China, I'm not surprised that there is such a phenomenon. As you mentioned, this could be due to delay of career progression or gender pay gap.
Delayed career progression may be due to the gender preference of employer or management. It could also be the unconscious or unavoidable choice of female employees. For example, a woman being direct or assertive can be easily deemed as bossy, while men doing so would be looked up as leader or boss. Stereotypes such as this would dwarf or hinder women's chances of becoming senior leaders.
As for gender pay gap, it is indeed that nowadays women are given more opportunities, but the fact that a small number of women have a chance to emerge as senior leaders does not represent gender equality. If family care responsibility remains largely borne by women, the goal of pay parity for senior positions will be very hard to achieve.
Balancing between family and work has been a common challenge for working women in many Asian countries, especially in the Chinese tradition that family supports should come before women's career. Usually, women have to sacrifice their rest and pleasure time in order to keep their own work. I still remember myself carrying my daughter in my back while starting and preparing for my actuarial examination, and very often, I needed to put my kids in bed first and then come back to the unfinished work thereafter. And I'm sure that I'm not the only one.
AMANDA SCOTT: Absolutely, and thank you for sharing that story. It resonates with a lot of people. So you've described the impediments to career development for women in Asia. So what do you think could be done to achieve leadership parity?
JOSEPHINE CHOW: Well, in my opinion, limited by the nature of gender difference and also the stereotypes that the society had put on, it is almost impossible to achieve full pay and leadership equality in Asia. However, we can work to reduce the gap. For private-sector perspective, to increase the flexibility of working hours and working locations would definitely help, and also, to change the employer's mindset of gender preference and also to improve women's self-esteem, et cetera, are all directions that can be strived to. Rajesh and Caroline, do you have anything to add?
RAJESH DASWANI: Yes. Thanks, Jo. I do think that one thing companies can do a better job at is around pay transparency, I think, instead of doing a recruitment type of process, rather than asking about salary expectations. Provide the actual budget for the role in terms of salary based on market levels because, I guess, if you just expect people to tell you their salary plus a delta, you'll always have that issue of pay inequity issues, I should say, so yeah, I think that's one area.
AMANDA SCOTT: Really interesting, and I think the other interesting thing that we've come across in this study is that Asia-Pac is the region with the most diversity, so from the highest index overall to one of the lowest. So as someone living and working in Asia for over 20 years, what's been your experience, Rajesh?
RAJESH DASWANI: Yeah, I've been fortunate enough to have Asia-Pac roles and traveled a lot between different countries, and obviously, with the different cultures, languages, religions, and market norms by different countries, I mean, you would expect there'll be quite a lot of variance in the results.
The one thing that did surprise me a little bit is that, I guess, Korea and Japan were quite high on the thing, but I think there's a lot of technical issues or things that come through in the results. And I guess there's some salary ceilings with respect to social systems, and therefore, that's the reason why it's not as marked, the differences between men and women in terms of the relative wealth. So I think we would expect a lot of differences, and that comes through in the results.
But just more generally, in my last, I guess, two to three decades working in both Singapore and Hong Kong and maybe less so in those more developed markets, we do see there has been a lot of increase in the representation of women just in general in the different areas but, I guess, less so in the leadership areas. I think it was coming close to maybe shrinking a little bit, the gap, but I think the pandemic has really changed it, shifted it back, because I guess a lot of females did leave. Women left the workforce to go back for some reason. So I think that's actually-- we've gone backwards a little bit over the last three or four years.
But having said that, more women in the workforce, more representing leadership positions, we still find that that doesn't necessarily translate into pay equity. So even for doing the same jobs, women are being paid less, and therefore, there is still a lot of work to be done.
There is one study by the World Economic Forum, and I think they've done it for the last few years. And I think it's now sitting at 168 years before they think parity will be reached, and I think the previous study showed 134 years. So that's actually gone up by another 34 years, so not great news.
But I think there are some countries that are doing a little bit to help. Japan, for instance, a couple of months ago-- they have now got a requirement to do some disclosure on gender pay gaps. Yeah, and I guess the first step to make the change is to do stuff like that, disclosing more, and I hope other countries follow suit.
AMANDA SCOTT: Fantastic. Thank you. So Caroline, I have a question for you. So our findings show that women typically have lower financial awareness and risk tolerance, which may contribute to the wealth gap, and Singapore has a high rate of financial literacy. So how has this impacted women's wealth, in your opinion?
CAROLINE KOK: That's a great question, Amanda. As you know, Singapore is one of the most developed countries in the region, and in many ways sets precedent for many other regional countries to follow. Relatively recent studies found that around a third of women in Singapore rate themselves well informed on financial matters as compared to around half of men.
There are also other studies that find that women are actually more financially literate compared to men, and they will often underestimate their perceived financial literacy more than men. So Singaporean women are just selling themselves short in their self-perception on financial literacy. But women are still more conservative investors, given inherent nature, which could have contributed to the lower financial confidence.
Being financially literate enables women to make better long-term decisions in investing and financial planning, which leads to higher wealth accumulation. Studies have found that women in Singapore who views financially independent are more likely to make active decisions on savings and investing their money, and these examples, I would say, are relevant for other countries in the region.
AMANDA SCOTT: Absolutely. So I'd love to hear a little bit more about how those examples would apply. So what do you see in Singapore that could be done in other countries to enhance women's financial literacy?
CAROLINE KOK: I think in Southeast Asia, I see that financial literacy has been instilled since young, so as women tend to take charge of household finances, we often see mothers imparting financial skills to their young daughters through daily routines such as grocery shopping. And this is further supported through financial education messages that the government aims to deliver through schools' curriculum.
The study also highlights the impact of caregiving responsibilities on women's career. Then the government aims to make childcare more affordable as well through government childcare centers as well as subsidies for working mothers. And there are also plenty of NGOs in Singapore dedicated to supporting women of different life stages by educating and empowering them with important financial management skills.
So I would say that there's been more effort across private and public players that could have contributed to the higher rate of financial literacy among women in Singapore, although there's more work to be done to further reduce the gender wealth equity-- to further reduce the wealth equity gap in the country.
RAJESH DASWANI: Yeah, and Caroline, if I can add, you talked about women being more conservative investors. And I think in this day and age and the markets that we live in, I think that's not a bad thing. Having some prudency in your investment decision making is very important.
And I know I sort of took care of the our portfolio in terms of the investment decisions, and then Celine, my wife, did come in and started getting more involved. And definitely, I can tell she's actually made the portfolio much more balanced, and especially in a downturn, it actually does help a lot. Yeah. AMANDA SCOTT: Fantastic. Thank you, Rajesh, and I'd like to pick up on some of your points that you've been making throughout. So let's think about the role that allyship can play, particularly in Asia-Pacific where many countries are still very traditional, and there's still a lower representation of women leaders. Do you mind talking a bit about that?
RAJESH DASWANI: Sure. I guess, being an ally is just-- just from the term itself, I mean, that's already a lot, meaning you need to have a cause to be an ally. So therefore, you would know that there's an issue that needs to be addressed, so that's very important.
And I guess if you're a male or a man doing that advocating for women, I think that is a very, very powerful statement because, I guess, the cause is really for women. Maybe it's overall society, but really, it directly impacts women. And men standing there and being allies is a very, very important thing.
And then when you have men who are in senior leadership positions, then they can then take it to the next step to provide opportunities for females, for women to progress through the organization, and also, then, hopefully, that means that the pay will also become a little bit more equal between men and women. We do know that there is a long road ahead as per some of those metrics that I mentioned in an earlier question, but I guess one of the things is that similar to the climate change issues that we're having, you can't stick your head in the sand and say that this is not an issue. Yeah, so I think you really need to step up.
AMANDA SCOTT: Yeah, so I want to get into that a little bit more. So if you had to pick the characteristics of an ally, what would they be? What are they?
RAJESH DASWANI: Yeah, and you definitely don't need a PhD to be an ally. So it's quite simple. I mean, basically, you want to listen. You don't want to dismiss perspectives from women or other allies as well, what their point of view are. Have an open mind.
Secondly, I think you provide credit where credit is due. So if there are women as your colleagues in the organization that have done a great job, make sure you promote that. If there's any bias you're seeing in the organization, any discriminatory policies, make sure you speak up. Don't just let it-- don't push it under the carpet.
And then lastly, I think, and probably maybe most importantly is really the support that you give at home, so forget the corporate environment. But really helping your partner on various chores, being more active in childcare, and those type of things is very important as well and shows more equality between the different sexes.
But we all know that there's so much more to be done. Yeah. Anybody have any other points to make?
JOSEPHINE CHOW: Yes. I would like to add reflecting your own power or ability as a man because an effective ally starts with self-awareness, and also to actively support the diverse female leaders that you believe in is also another important characteristic that I can think of. Thank you.
AMANDA SCOTT: Wonderful. Thank you all very much. This has been a really exciting conversation, lots of fantastic insights, really interesting research and points that you've made throughout, so thank you all very much. And I'm going to hand over now to John. Thank you again.
RAJESH DASWANI: Thanks for having us.
JOSEPHINE CHOW: Thank you.
CAROLINE KOK: Thank you.
AMANDA SCOTT: Thank you.
JOSEPHINE CHOW: Thank you.
RAJESH DASWANI: Bye.
JOHN BREMEN: Thanks, Amanda. The last panel showed that these issues are sweeping and structural, but there are actions that employers can take to positively influence the lives of their employees. And today, we'll talk about the four ways the research outlines to do this through actions around pay, career, retirement and financial literacy, and awareness.
Pay and career inequity are topics that have granted a ton of traction recently. Let's start with Lori. What's your view on how effective actions in the space have been so far and how you see the space evolving, and then ultimately, what actions do you suggest employers take to really advance success in this area?
LORI WISPER: Great question. Thanks, John. So pay equity has been around for quite some time. What I mean by that is there have been laws, compliance laws, regulations in the US, for example, since the early 1960s, so those issues have been around for quite some time.
But what's really gained traction in the last 8 to 10 years is a very strong focus on pay equity, gender pay equity globally, and pay equity for gender and race in North America, and because of that focus, a lot of reasons why that focus has taken place-- but because of that focus, employers have really stepped up their game to look at the pay equity issue within their populations. And what I mean by that is they analyze how pay works for jobs and look at similar works-- the US government calls it substantially similar work-- to ensure that they're paying fairly for people that are doing the same work.
That is a portion of the whole diversity, equity, and inclusion agenda and focus that most employers are now targeting. It's not the whole thing. So pay equity-- we've seen a lot of focus, a lot of improvements, a lot of good discussion and consideration.
What we haven't been able to crack the code on is what I call career equity, and career equity is more about opportunity. It's not just about pay. Pay can certainly be an element because as you go up the career ladder, you're going to make more money, and if women and people of color have barriers to career progression, they're also going to have barriers to pay progression.
But pay equity is something that employers have focused on greatly, and there's sometimes a focus of or an attitude of, I can check the box. I've fixed that now. But in reality, they haven't because they haven't fixed career equity.
Career equity is about representation. It's not about pay. And so are you giving, as an employer, women and people of color the same opportunity to progress in their careers as you're giving others? That should be the focus now, I believe, and that would be my advice to companies that really do want to see progress in their diversity, equity, and inclusion agendas.
And what the team is going to talk about is wealth accumulation over time. Without career equity, you cannot have wealth accumulation over time. When you look at wealth equity, it's really about providing opportunities to all different classes of people so that they can retire and have a sustainable life at a certain point in their careers, and I know that Manjit and others are going to talk about that.
So in the end, it's about both pay equity and career equity, but we've made good progress in pay equity. Now it's time to look really and get serious about career equity.
JOHN BREMEN: Fantastic and helpful answer, Lori. Thanks so much.
Valentina, why don't we move to discussing caregiving as a topic? We've seen almost universally that this is a factor in so many women's stories, so many parents' stories and "taking care of elders" stories and "taking care of those with disabilities" stories. It's a deeply personal space that varies extensively across cultures, so it's a very complex and sensitive topic but, again, an important one. How do you suggest employers approach this topic? VALENTINA ROCCHI: Thank you, John. Yes, it's a big issue, and there's plenty of opportunities for employers to help. And really, these will vary depending on local legislation, the social infrastructure in each country, and ultimately, the culture as well.
But firstly, before we go into thinking of the different ways in which employers can support, it's probably worth explaining what we mean by caregiving, and in simple terms, it's really the ability to be able to look after your loved ones whether it's a newborn baby, whether it's elderly parents or a sick partner or sick children.
In terms of the duration of caregiving, this can be either very short term, a burst of needs, so for example, after the birth of a child or looking after family member after an operation, or it can be more long term and generally associated with more chronic conditions, for example. And there has been a lot of attention given recently on caregiving particularly post-pandemic and during the pandemic due to, really, the growing needs for carers in today's society.
We're a society of a sandwich generation. People my age are squeezed between looking after their children, looking after their parents. And also, public services are much more under a lot more pressure than they have ever been before. So the need, really, for carers is not going away.
And unfortunately, due to societal and cultural reasons, the caring responsibilities fall upon women in a lot of cases. And this is really true globally, but some regions are more effective than others. For example, we know that in Asia, 80% of unpaid care work is performed by women.
So if the need for carers is not going away and the responsibility falls mostly on women, we really want to see what employers can do to help the situation and make sure that these responsibilities and these situations don't cause women to having to leave their job, for example, or take a step back in their career progression and career ambitions, just as Lori was saying earlier, but also that these situations don't limit the ability to save adequately for retirement. And they don't limit you to be able to accumulate wealth in equal measures, comparable measures, at least, as men do.
So going to what employers can really do, I think the simplest thing, really, that they can do is to allow the greater flexibility in working hours and working patterns and provide leave, preferably paid, of course, where possible, and back this up with, really, a commitment to ensuring that the careers of women are not impacted, again, that really being the most important aspect of it.
And due to the increased demand of caring and support we have seen as well, providers appear in the market with corporate solutions, sort of B2B solutions where a provider offers to employers for them to be able to offer to their employees, and these are, for example, concierge services or emergency eldercare support or longer-term nursing, caring support as well.
So this is not available everywhere globally, but we are seeing growth in the market. And hopefully, there will be more of these solutions coming up in the market. And it's also not all employers will be able to afford this. So leave tends to be one that is a little bit more accessible for some employers. Finally, for mothers away on maternity leave, ensuring that the company has a thoughtful process for reintegration into work after returning to work and a policy in the retirement plan that ensures that there's no contribution gaps, being able to either contribute while you're on maternity leave or giving the possibility to pay on a lump sum after you return to work into your retirement plan and making sure that the employer also matches with whatever they were going to match if the person was still in work.
And finally, I think, raising awareness and education and providing all the resources to employees and communicating, really, on what's out there, whether it's state provided or provided by NGOs or provided by the employer. And then finally, very important as well is emotional support, providing that mental health and emotional support for employees that is often needed when you have to look after family members, so a lot there for employers to do for all pockets.
JOHN BREMEN: Now, thanks so much, Valentina, again, very helpful and insightful answer to, again, a complex question. Mark, let's turn to retirement savings now, which we know from the report is a crucial component of wealth. What impact does gender have on retirement savings in that context?
MARK MANN: Yeah, thanks, John, and absolutely, retirement savings is a really important piece of the puzzle. We've already seen that periods of caregiving can lead to career interruptions and curtail pay increases for many women. And what might be somewhat less obvious is that lower pay, relative to male colleagues with equivalent education skills and experience, can lead to lower contributions to retirement savings. And over time, when you combine that with a generally more conservative mindset when investing, this can have real long-term consequences for women's accumulated wealth.
In addition to that, aside from the impact of lower pay and retirement plan contributions, there needs to be some sort of mechanism to support continued employer contributions to retirement benefits while women are on periods of leave. And as Valentina mentioned, this is something that women tend to disproportionately bear. And then also, just ensuring that there's some sort of indexation of salary for retirement savings purposes while on periods of leave can really be another very important part of the solution.
JOHN BREMEN: Great. Wonderful. No, thank you. Obviously an essential component of wealth accumulation and retention. So thank you. Lori, back to you for a second-- apart from retirement savings, what other instruments out there tend to favor one gender over the other or fuel gender inequities? Curious just from your experience maybe on the pay side what we might be looking at.
LORI WISPER: Yeah, and just to build off of everything that Mark and Valentina said, when I talked about career equity being something employers should focus more on, I didn't mean to imply that they also shouldn't focus on pay equity because what you're asking, John, is a good example of wealth accumulation over time as it's tied to women being able to be fully in the workforce as well as progress over a career path over time.
And one of the instruments that we see a lot, especially in publicly traded companies, is stock-driven pay programs, so long-term incentives. Long-term incentives are a really impactful way to accumulate wealth over time, but they are most often the purview of executives or senior leaders maybe one or two levels below executive. And so getting to that exclusive club is often very, very challenging, and if you're not committed to getting there, it's never easy.
So eligibility around programs like that tend to favor certain classes of people over others, men over women, for example. So that could be looked at. Are there ways to progress women even faster in their careers so that they could be eligible for programs like that?
And we tend to really look at the top of the house and say, oh, but we've got a handful of women in these executive positions, so we must be doing OK. But what about all the women in the middle of the company or at the lower end of the workforce? Are they getting opportunities to move up? Are you looking at all the barriers to being able to do that so that they could potentially become eligible for something like long-term incentives which-- again, great wealth accumulation device.
JOHN BREMEN: Wonderful. Thank you. That's very helpful, Lori.
And Manjit, I think, turning to you as sort of the original visionary behind the whole concept of this report and thinking about one of the foundations of wealth, again, accumulation and equity, I think a related question to what Lori, Mark, and Valentina talked about is about financial literacy and awareness. And this is a factor that I think we found almost universally affects women disproportionately relative to men. What actions do you recommend employers take in this important space?
MANJIT BASI: Good question, John. I do think financial literacy is really important, and there is a difference between men and women, as we saw in the study. But the very good news is that there's a lot that employers can do to financially empower women, so I'm going to touch upon a couple of these areas. So if we start with listening, I think this is crucial. Survey women and ask them what they need help with because it could be buying a home, paying off debt, or, in some cases, planning for the longer-term retirement.
And then a second stage could be to understand the needs a bit more, and this is where segmentation can be very important because generationally the older employees could be coming back to retirement planning. But the millennials want to buy a home, and Gen Z may want to just start with managing budgets and debt management. So there's just different needs by generation that need to be considered.
And then once they've understood, listened, I think one of the first areas they can focus is to offer some targeted communication to women because historically we've seen that communication's often developed and delivered by men. And so if we target and change the communication approach, it can encourage more women to see that building wealth is for them, too, and also how they can do it, I think, just to build up empowerment.
And then some examples when it comes to employer-sponsored retirement plans, can the employers design plans that's easy for women to participate? It could be through automatic enrollments or unconditional contributions during maternity leave, for example.
Another observation that we saw as we looked at this study was that women tend to be more focused on short-term financial matters. And can employers address this by providing financial education or seminars that will help specifically with long-term investment and are geared towards women? So they could give some information in bite-sized themes, very simply make the seminar accessible during the working day, so built into the working period, focus on details which are very relevant to the different countries and the different women. So let them tune into the content, so being as specific as we can to draw the women in to become financially astute.
And these are just a couple of examples, but if some of these can be built into the processes by employers, the financial confidence will grow for women. It could be through initially having better debt management or getting some money into a pension fund, but as their confidence grows, it's going to encourage more interest in wealth accumulation. And ultimately, there's going to be a spiraling effect. So I'm going to definitely say that employers are perfectly placed to help women build their wealth.
JOHN BREMEN: Wonderful. Thank you, Manjit, and again, a great way to wrap this all together. Thank you all very much for joining us to hear about WTW's Global Gender Wealth Equity Report. If you'd like to read the full report, it's available on our website at the URL that should be flashing right now, and we look forward to hearing your thoughts on how we can continue to improve our efforts collectively to narrow the gender wealth equity gap. So thanks again, and look forward to continuing this important discussion.