In this session we explored the topic of applying a gender lens to impact investing, providing good examples of how in doing so, you are able to increase your investment opportunities.
Our Lead Expert Laurie Spengler discussed how global shocks, like the current coronavirus pandemic, unveil vulnerabilities of disadvantaged groups, but also expose great existing resilience in communities, which is worth investing in with Suzanne Biegel, CEO of Catalyst at Large Consulting and Co-Founder of GenderSmart Investing, Dolika Banda, Independent Consultant and board member at CDC and Graham Wrigley, chairman of CDC Group.
Key messages from the discussion
- For investors and business owners, know the current gender performance of your investments. Take a look at your current portfolio or business and try to understand where you are. Beyond keeping track of the number of jobs held by men and women, analyse business risks and opportunities with a gender perspective; are you noticing differences in opportunities for and performances of men and women? Are you noticing gender specific differences in accessing the firm’s products and services? Knowing your current gender performance can lead you to find new opportunities.
- Don’t lose sight of the long-term and try to dispel myths. We need to have aspirations and we need to reach far beyond where we are today. There is a myth that if you want to create impact in Sub-Saharan Africa you can only do so through microfinance. But there are female owned businesses across the spectrum, from microfinance to corporates. There are qualified and experienced women who can take up leadership roles and there is a huge scope to expand women’s accessibility to products and services. In all their different roles, incorporating women brings more opportunities to businesses, therefore we need to think of innovative ways to benefit from these opportunities. An example of incorporating women in investments can be via a virtual marketplace that connects funders and fund-seekers in all asset classes, which can decrease certain barriers for women entrepreneurs to access finance.
- Find an internal champion. It is important for the entire investment team to embed gender lens in their investment process, but it is vital to have at least one team member championing the gender agenda, lest gender considerations get side lined by mainstream considerations due to various reasons, including longstanding mainstream practice. The UK’s development finance institution CDC, has team members who champion gender lens investing internally. Similarly, many other organisations also have at least one internal champion who can encourage those who doubt the value of considering gender in their investment by showcasing both the business and the impact case.
- Make an allocation. Decide how much money you want to invest with a gender lens. Allocate a certain amount to pursue a gender lens strategy in the coming twelve months. Starting small and focusing on one activity or investment helps us learn and can build momentum and confidence.