March 7, 2019 / 2:06 PM / 3 months ago

'Snail's pace': BAML says economic gender gap to endure for centuries

FILE PHOTO: Women holding parasols, look at an electronic board showing Japan's Nikkei average outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan June 2, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - The economic gender gap is narrowing at such a snail’s pace that suggests that women will own a smaller percentage of the world’s financial assets for at least two centuries, Bank of Merrill Lynch said on Thursday.

In a study on women’s impact on financial markets, the U.S. bank said advancing gender equality would boost global growth by almost a third.

Women would hold $72 trillion of the world’s financial assets by 2020 — double the 2010 level — with women accumulating assets 1.5 times faster than men.

But at the current pace of change, women will own a smaller percentage of global financial assets for at least another 202 years, partly because the U.S. lags other developed nations, BAML said.

The average S&P 500 board seats four men for every woman and only 5 percent of companies have a woman at the helm, BAML said, adding that “women diversity boosts profits and dividends at a lower risk”.

In contrast, the percentage of women on corporate boards in Europe has tripled over the past 15 years, and every one in six company executive members is now a woman.

The European Commission aims by 2020 to increase the employment rate of women to 75 percent from its current 64 percent.

Banks, which say they are trying to leave behind discriminatory attitudes rampant in the finance industry, are studying the impact of women on the economy ahead of international women’s day on Friday.

A survey on Thursday by UBS found that women control their family’s day-to-day finances but not investments with 71 percent of women in Hong Kong deferring to spouses on long-term financial decisions.

Reporting by Tom Finn; Editing by Tommy Wilkes and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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