A review of U.S. and Canadian banks by Moody’s Investors Service finds that more diverse firms tend to have higher credit ratings, but stops short of concluding that there’s a direct link.
The rating agency examined the boards of directors and workforces of 72 North American banks, and uncovered a “slight positive correlation” between greater gender diversity and the firms’ credit ratings.
On average, women made up 28% of the boards at higher-rated banks, compared with 26% at lower-ranking institutions, Moody’s reported.
However, Moody’s cautioned that the results are ultimately inconclusive, given the relatively small sample of highly rated banks in the review.
“Any correlation is strongest at the highest rating levels, and not present down the rating scale,” the review said.
Moody’s also stressed that “correlation is not causation,” and that the overwhelming majority of corporate directors are men. While women make up over half of the banks’ entry-level workforce (56%), this “does not yet translate evenly to the executive level,” where 38% are female, or the board level. “Effective support of women’s career progression remains a key challenge.”
The study did find that larger banks tend to have greater gender diversity.
“These banks also have more diversified business models and a larger international presence, which may enhance their ability to prioritize and benefit from wider gender diversity,” Moody’s said.
While the study didn’t establish a concrete link between diversity and rating performance, “the data provides a baseline to examine whether these metrics will continue to improve in tandem with greater gender diversity.”