In this Random Thoughts post, we focus on using a gender lens to (1) make profitable and sustainable investments in woman-owned enterprises or (2) develop new business growth opportunities that positively impact women. In case you’re not familiar with the term, gender lens investing is defined as the practice of investing for financial return while also considering the benefits to and impact on women. It is closely aligned with the developing fields of impact investment and positive impact.
Wikipedia describes gender lens investing as a form of investment which “can include funding women-owned businesses, businesses with a strong track record of employing women, or companies that improve the lives of women and girls with their products and services.” A 2017 book titled Gender Lens Investing: Uncovering Opportunities for Growth, Returns, and Impact makes a solid case for investing in woman-owned businesses or developing new business growth opportunities that positively impact women. And, a recent article in Medium titled Forget China or India, Women Will be the Most Disruptive Economic Force of the 21st Century makes a similar argument.
There is a sentence in the Gender Lens Investing book (among many) that clearly explains the rationale for looking at women as key drivers of business and economic growth:
“An economy not fully deploying its human capital–both men and women–is an economy operating below capacity, inhibiting its ability to compete, drive growth, spark innovation, reduce poverty, and increase equality.”
Listen to this Knowledge at Wharton interview with Jackie VanderBrug, one of the co-authors of Gender Lens Investing, discussing the benefits of using a gender lens to build a sustainable, high-impact enterprise or investment portfolio. Note the research Ms. VanderBrug cites about the values of millennial and impact-driven investors.
My cofounder Kem Ellis and I could not agree more with the insightful analysis provided by Ms. VanderBrug and Joseph Quinlan, her co-author and colleague at U.S. Trust (a division of Bank of America).
However, I believe Ingrid Stange, Board Chair of Partnership for Change, goes straight to the heart of the gender wealth problem with her quote underneath the image at the front of this blog post: “women carry half the sky, we should make sure women own half the world.” Partnership for Change is a Norwegian NGO (non-governmental organization) that works to secure economic independence for women and youth with projects in Ethiopia, Myanmar, and Norway.
During my forty year career as a strategic transformation and change consultant, I often had to call out the “800-pound gorilla” in the room when leadership, management, or work teams refused to talk about real issues or address root causes of problems. Ms. Stange has done this by putting the issue of gender wealth and equity squarely on the table in front of us. Is this not the 800-pound gorilla in the room? Is this not what our biased and broken system of finance and investment has prevented women from achieving over the years?
At The Social Impact Foundation, we firmly believe that sustainable solutions to our most pressing social, economic, and environmental problems will only emerge when women are treated equitably and given every opportunity at all levels of society to succeed in their personal and professional lives. And this means having opportunities to acquire and own the financial and non-financial assets that males (especially white males) have been privileged to enjoy.
So, are you interested in growing your business and/or retirement portfolio? Or, making the world a better place for everyone? Then, you might be ready to adopt a gender lens and respond to the challenge provided by Ms. Stange. Let’s be honest, is there any reason why women should not own half the world and half the wealth?