Giving Compass’ Take:
• Suzanne Biegel, a gender lens investing pioneer at Wharton’s Social Impact Initiative, discusses the recent trends of gender lens investing and the opportunities for growth.
• What are successful examples of gender lens investing, and how is it changing the impact investing world?
• Read about how to build a gender lens investment strategy.
Gender lens investing — using capital to alleviate the economic plight of women and girls — is gaining steam. From being a blip on the screen a mere two decades ago, this field is being embraced by more than 100 private and public funds. And their investment products are getting more targeted: Investors can put money in funds that aim to improve women’s access to health care, for example.
Gender lens investing can be defined in a few different ways. One is to think about how you integrate gender analysis into financial analysis to get to a better outcome in any investment. Another way is to think about how we use capital intentionally to achieve positive impacts on women and girls.
You might think about women’s access to capital. You might think about products and services that positively affect women and girls or take advantage of the women’s market. You might think about where women show up across the value chain of a business, in governance, in leadership, in supply chains and distribution channels all the way through to end customers. And you might be thinking about how we use our capital intentionally to shift structural gender inequality.
When I started doing this kind of investing 17 years ago, it was hard to find other people who were ready to be in this conversation.
There were people coming from an international development perspective who were asking, ‘How do we get capital to women entrepreneurs?’
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The microfinance industry was thriving. There were people who were thinking about how we get capital to women entrepreneurs, especially in tech, because it was the boom of the tech emergence. There were people who were starting to think about women on boards and in governance, but it was very early. When I really looked to deploy capital 17 years ago with this kind of a lens, there was one fund that with a public equity strategy. There were some women’s opportunity loan funds in local communities, but it was pretty scarce.
Over the past 17 years, we have seen demand come from the investor community, from individuals to institutions, from players in the private markets to people in the public sphere and international development, multilaterals and the development finance institutions.
And it’s coming for a few different reasons. One is because people are seeing the rise of women as consumers, whether that’s in B2B or on the consumer side. The second is that people are sharpening their understanding of where the problems are around gender equality or women’s and girls’ access to education or health care or financial inclusion, and how capital can be part of the overall solution.
People are seeing the opportunity that is out there to invest and back high-tech, high-growth women entrepreneurs or fund managers who are developing funds around women’s access to capital or around smart business that has women in leadership.
Read the full article about gender lens investing at Wharton University of Pennsylvania.
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