Investing with a Gender Lens –What Can you Do?

Gender lens investing is of deep interest to many in the Invest for Better Community.  A few weeks ago, abut 50 Invest for Better Circle members attended a special “Ask the Expert” session on Gender Lens investing, featuring Kristin Hull of Nia Impact Capital.  In addition to sharing her personal journey on becoming a gender-lens investor and getting her firm to be Gen Certified, Kristin provided practical resources and guidance for how investors can incorporate gender into their goals and actions.  For those who missed it, you can listen to Kristin’s talk here.  We are grateful to Kristin for all her field-building efforts and contributions to Invest for Better!

Also last month was the GenderSmart 2021 Summit, a world class event (impressively offered in 2 world-sensitive time zones) of incredible speakers and participants representing the full ecosystem of gender lens investing. No worries for those who could not attend, because the website includes highlights and links to the fantastic resources unveiled at the event.  High points for me included new data showing that assets with a gender lens have grown to $11 billion, a phenomenal increase since the term was coined only 12 years ago; Criterion Institute’s new white paper on Disrupting Fields:  Addressing Power Dynamics in the Fields of Climate Finance and Gender Lens Investing; and simply the many voices and players in the gender lens field tuning in from all over the world.  Invest for Better is delighted to be co-inviter to GenderSmart and VC Include’s upcoming Capital Connect  and to offer our network discounted registration for this gathering to connect gender-lens investors with gender-lens funding opportunities.  Please let us know if you want access to that discount!

It’s been almost 15 years since I met Jackie Vanderbrug (now at Bank of America/US Trust) and Joy Anderson of Criterion Institute who coined the term “gender lens investing.” That meeting launched me on a journey to transform my personal portfolio and ultimately – via Invest for Better – to advocate for all women to seize the power of the capital markets in service of a better world. I’ve had the privilege to meet and work with so many incredible leaders in this field over time, including Suzanne Biegel, Jacki Zehner, Tuti Scott, Tracy Gray, Vicki Saunders, Kathleen McQuiggan, Alison Pyott and many others.  As a result of their work and investor demand, today there are an ever-growing number of gender lens funds and products available to retail, HNW and institutional investors.  They have pushed the field to develop greater transparency and comparable benchmarks (hats off to Equileap and As You Sow). Through our collective insistence that gender is “material” to both financial and social/environmental outcomes, we’ve come a long way.

But we know that the fight is not over, by any stretch.   While $11 billion in assets is a great big number, it pales in comparison to the overall market.   Consider that Green Bonds alone came to $1 Trillion in 2020.  The data is improving, but it continues to focus too much on counting the number of women and not enough on the risks of biased practices and policies, such as inadequate childcare.  There are still too few male allies at the table, and the entrenched financial systems continue to disadvantage first time fund managers or enterprises led by women or BIPOC.  Thus only 3% of venture capital goes to female entrepreneurs.

Invest for Better Circles have a role to play here.  Through involvement in a Circle, you can learn about how to incorporate a thoughtful gender lens into your investing.  You can confidently ask questions of your financial advisors about what they are doing to build a gender smart portfolio.  You can collaborate with others to advocate for changes in national standards.  You can be a champion to Invest for Better.