Gender Lens Investing 101
Introductions and Resources
“Gender lens impact investing” is a form of investing in which investors seek specifically to generate both a positive financial return on their investment, and a beneficial impact on the lives of women.
This is a new field, and it’s evolving.
Wharton Social Impact Initiative has been researching gender lens impact investing since 2014 and has collaborated with U.S. Trust, Criterion Institute, Women Effect, and others in our work to define, capture trends, and illustrate current gaps in knowledge. As such, we bring a keen awareness of the work that has been done in the space over the last few, formative years.
To learn more, read or download the guides below—from a quick look to a deeper dive.
In this handy infographic, we break down some of the ways investors can begin thinking with a gender lens — or several. Looking at a portfolio through these lenses can help investors ask new questions and see patterns that otherwise would not be clear.
Design credit: Jennifer Jun, C’19
Definitions and Approaches
To begin the introduction to gender lens investing, it is helpful to start with a definition. There are many important players in the space, and each views and defines the practice in a different way.
Gender lens investing can be widely defined as integrating both a gender analysis and a financial analysis to get to a better investment outcome.
It can also be defined as identifying the target of investment capital on a specific objective such as increasing women’s access to capital, investing in products and services focused on women, or investing in companies with gender equity throughout the value chain.
“Gender lens impact investing” is a subset of gender lens investing, where the explicit goals are both to create a positive social impact and to have a positive financial return.
This is the arena—gender lens impact investing—that WSII is most interested in.
Further, gender lens analysis, as we define the term, is the process of gathering information on current or potential investments to assess whether the companies one might invest in have a positive, negative, or neutral impact on men’s and women’s lives and opportunities.
More specifically, gender lens analysis is designed to answer questions regarding the effects of a company’s internal operations (e.g., its leadership, hiring practices, promotion practices, and benefits), products and services, and supply chain on the men and women who experience the company as executives, employees, customers, suppliers, and/or community members.
By using a gender lens analysis, an investor can understand one more aspect of his or her investment, and make better informed choices on whether and how much to invest.
In this sense, the lens is simply uncovering factors relevant to investment decisions.
Additionally, gender lens approaches which are not focused on improving the lives of women and girls are more open to subtleties in gender norms. One may use a gender lens to assess investing opportunities in toys and games for young boys designed to break stereotypes of the kinds of toys boys should play with. And, increasingly, gender lens leaders are thinking about how the gender lens approach can include fluid notions of gender and transgender individuals.
It is important to note that it is possible for someone to use a gender lens analysis in investments but not to be driven by the impact.
By analogy, imagine two investors who investigate vegan meat substitutes. Investor A sees non-animal food products as a growing market due to shifting consumer preferences, and invests to make money on that opportunity, but not because she is concerned about animal rights or welfare. Investor B, on the other hand, is passionate about animal welfare, and this commitment is the driver for their investment decisions. These two investors may both be investors in the same meat substitute company, but for different reasons.
In this 20 minute discussion as part of WSII’s gender lens interview series, hear from Jackie VanderBrug, managing director of U.S. Trust and co-author of “Gender Lens Investing: Uncovering Opportunities for Growth, Returns, and Impact,” released in November 2016 as an in-depth examination of gender lens investing and the female-driven economy.
“Gender lens investing crosses all sectors. It crosses all asset classes. And people use lenses in different ways, so it is also important to understand that my gender lens might not be the same as yours,” she says. “Why it’s important is because we are starting to realize that so much of the way that we allocate capital is gendered. When we can be aware of that, and we can be aware of our biases, we can be aware of the opportunities, we can make much better investment decisions.”
This compilation of reports, articles, and recommending reading should provide a starting point for anyone with an interest in investing with a gender lens.
Goldman Sachs | Kathy Matsui et al | May 2014 With Japan’s population set to shrink by 30% and the elderly ratio expected to reach 40% by 2060, Japan has much to gain by boosting female employment.
Sarah Kaplan and Jackie Vanderbrug | Stanford Innovation Review | September 2014 This SSIR article put gender lens investing on the map, from one of the leading practioners in the field – Jackie Vanderbrug from US Trust, and Sarah Kaplan, a business academic that has studied this field extensively. It highlights the incorporation of gender in an investment framework and provides practical examples for practitioners. Download here
USSIF Foundation | June 2014 This guide is intended as a practical guide for individuals and institutions interested in learning about investment opportunities that help advance women.
Alliance Magazine | Suzanne Biegel | June 2014 Women Effect founder Suzanne Biegel’s introduction to Gender Lens investing – a primer with a conceptual framework and practical applications.
Veris Wealth Partners | Luisamaria Ruiz Carlile, Lori Choi, CFA, Patricia Farrar-Rovas, CIMA, Alison Pyott, CFP | March 2015 The most recent edition of one of the first reports on incorporating a gender lens for investors and philanthropists. It highlights gender inclusiveness expressed in terms of women’s access to capital, education and employment and introduces the concept of transforming investment portfolios to include gender considerations.
Criterion Institute | Joy Anderson and Katherine Miles | October 2015 A state of the field report, with a focus on incorporating gender analysis into the valuation of financial investments. It is targeted at philanthropists, donor/development agencies, investors and others looking to understand the overall dynamics of this emerging field, and the road map to the future.
Trillium Asset Management | Kristin Lang, Joshua Humphreys and Christi Electris of Croatan Institute | November 2015 This report presents case studies and actionable investment opportunities, as well as a survey of current literature combined with practical strategies to integrate gender into active portfolios.
Stanford Social Innovation Review | Emily Nielsen Jones and Musimbi Kanyoro | December 2015 The gender-lens movement is beginning to fund culturally led efforts to transform underlying beliefs that systematically disempower females in the first place.
Jackie Vanderbrug and Joseph Quinlan | October 2016 This 2016 title is the first book of its kind to examine, in-depth, the advantages of integrating gender into investment analysis. While other books speak to growing numbers and influence of women, this book moves from economic trends to financial strategy.
Portions of this list originally appeared on WomenEffect.com