To effectively advocate for new offerings in your employer-sponsored plan, start by building a coalition of peers and interested co-workers inside your company. Your voice will be much stronger as a group. If you’re writing to someone in power, advocating on behalf of 10 or even 20 people carries a lot more weight than just one. One way to spur interest is to share the results of your Gender Equality Funds search with fellow employees. All plan participants are offered the same basket of mutual funds as you are, so they might be asking the same questions right now.
Some companies have “corporate responsibility teams.” If there isn’t one already, it may be time to create one for gender equality investing. Communicate with your co-workers through a company intranet, employee portal, a company newsletter, corporate chats, or social media.
If you are a plan participant, you know or can easily find your 401(k)/403(b) plan administrator, manager, or coordinator. That’s where to start. There could also be a chief corporate responsibility officer or employee engagement manager, who also could be good resources. An effective method is to go to the LinkedIn pages of those people and find who might be sympathetic to this cause. Do any of them volunteer or have connections with organizations promoting women’s welfare? Look for indicators that they’re friendly to corporate responsibility and start contacting them in order of their friendliness. In a publicly listed company with more structure, a coalition is vital to signal to managers that it’s an important issue for many employees. If it’s a smaller company, you might be able to approach the CFO or CEO directly. In a mid-size or family company, a family member could be more influential.
If your company has policies promoting gender diversity and equality, you can point out that there should be retirement plan options that align with those company values.
The usual starting point in these conversations is: “We want to align our 401(k) fund choices with our company values. We want to invest in a more equal future. How can we enhance our 401(k) choices to do so?”
Getting new fund choices added to the list of the existing plan options is a formal process, and could take up to a year. Larger companies often have some form of investment committee, which engages an investment advisor. Make sure you understand the timeline for making changes to your plan.
If your company has policies promoting gender diversity and equality, you can point out that there should be retirement plan options that align with those company values. If your plan does not offer even a single socially responsible option, employees are not being allowed to align their investments with the company’s values.
If the investment advisor and plan administrator refuse to help appropriate options, you may need to get fellow employees to sign a petition requesting the change and send it to the investment committee. If you are told, “But you’ll make less money if you apply gender lens investing,” you can say, “Actually, evidence shows gender diverse companies tend to have higher returns and lower risk. We want to be part of building a more equal future.” You can also check funds’ financial performance statistics.