It was the hook that drew me into the arena of impact investing. I first heard about the concept of gender-lens investing from the innovative people at Criterion Institute 10 years ago. Immediately, I thought, “this is for me.” From there, I became a donor and a cheerleader for Criterion Institute and their cause of creating a new investing viewfinder that would lift up women, and improve the world.
Like the tip of the iceberg, this epiphany revealed a whole new world beneath it. I dove in and have spent the last five years moving as many assets as I could into gender lens and other impact investing products and ecosystems. Thus began my journey into the world of impact investing as I learned to move my capital to create positive social change.
Ten years later, I am delighted and amazed at how much the term and its practice have taken hold and evolved. New products and methods of investing now exist, and the gender-lens focus has spawned new investment movements; investors can now focus on lenses such as racial equity, human rights, environmental sustainability, etc. As the concept of impact investing has evolved, so has my affinity to it.
Now I am proud to wear the banner of an evangelist for impact investing. While I continue to use the gender viewfinder as one of my primary investment themes, I am also focusing my energies on another aspect of gender-lens investing: increasing the participation of impact investing among women investors. In partnership with some incredible field-building partners and impact pioneers like Mission Investor Exchange, Mission Throttle, Case Foundation, and others, The Philanthropic Initiative has launched Invest for Better, an initiative to help women demystify impact investing, take control of their capital, and mobilize their money for good — to gender lens and any other social and environmentally focused purpose.
Our goal is to unlock as much capital, as quickly as possible, from a target market which is expected to control almost 65 percent of financial resources in the U.S. by 2030 — women. Studies overwhelmingly show that women want to invest with purpose; yet less than half of those interested are actually doing so. The reasons why are not entirely clear, but we believe there are a variety of underlying causes for this lack of engagement. For example, women are not spending as much time on investing overall.
As a result women feel less confident or knowledgeable about investing. Moreover, women and men are not aware of the many exciting options available to them and how to get started on impact investing. To help combat these barriers, the Invest for Better initiative seeks to inspire women to engage in impact investing, educate them on how to get started and the options available to them, and activate them to take small and large steps forward. Invest for Better offers educational resources, connections to investor networks, such as Invest for Better Circles, inspirational stories of other women who have taken the journey, and an invitation to pledge to take any one of 11 simple action steps towards investing with impact.
When women fail to recognize the potential of their investments to negatively or positively impact society, not only are they missing an opportunity to exert more influence on the world we live in, but they are also leaving the power to make substantial social change on the table. Invest for Better seeks to help women take that power back and, in the process, bring purpose and meaning to the investing process.
Want to help move the needle on gender equality issues in the workplace? Visit Gender Equality Funds and apply a gender lens to nearly 5,000 of the most commonly-held U.S. mutual funds. Gender Equality Funds enables investors to align their investment with their values. It reveals which mutual funds are investing in the companies that lead the field in terms of gender balance and equality. Investors can easily search the Gender Equality Funds database to see how specific funds are scored, find responsible options that track leading companies in terms of gender equality, and compare financial returns. Sign up here for updates on Gender Equality Funds.
This article first appeared on the As You Sow Blog.
Ellen Remmer is a recognized leader in the field of strategic philanthropy. She is a Senior Partner at The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI), the nonprofit philanthropic advisory firm that pioneered the field of strategic philanthropy advising and works around the globe to help donors achieve lasting social impact.