Advancing the Field: Gender Lens Investing News on International Women’s Day

There are countless reasons to believe that bringing women fully into the global economy is the right thing to do. Today, on International Women’s Day, Wharton Social Impact Initiative highlights the work we are doing to understand how advancing an inclusive economy is also the smart thing to do.

Because of our home at Wharton, WSII is uniquely positioned to expand the field of gender lens investing in two ways: by growing the evidence base and building the talent pipeline.

These two goals are symbiotic. By working with us and faculty on research, our students have meaningful experiential learning opportunities. And because of the students who work with us, we can conduct more, and better, research. Field building activities such as conferences, publications, and alumni engagement amplify this work and allow us to serve as a translator between industry practitioners and academic researchers.

Right now, we are focusing on gender lens investing. In the same way that the WSII research on return on investment and preservation of mission in private equity impact funds catalyzed data-driven discussion, we want to help move the discussion around gender lens investing from powerful anecdotes to well-founded facts.

The best investors use all available information to make their decisions; an investor who explicitly looks at gender as a relevant factor can identify opportunities and risks one might not otherwise see.

WSII’s gender lens investing work is gaining momentum, with a growing network of thought leaders and practitioners helping to deepen discussion, new projects and research opportunities, and sharply increasing student engagement.

Here’s what we’re excited about:

  1. Industry-leading content is coming this way. We are pleased to announce that Women Effect—a hub for thought and strategy around gender lens investing—is moving their content to the Wharton Social Impact Initiative. In coming months, we will be sharing more about how this move will allow us to build on and amplify the important work of Women Effect; please be sure to follow us on social media or sign up for our newsletter to stay tuned on those developments.
  2. We are welcoming expert perspectives. Among other strategic affiliates and advisors, Wharton alumna Suzanne Biegel, founder of Women Effect, will now serve as a Senior Gender Lens Investing Advisor with WSII. This role will help us accelerate our gender lens investing work and make the most of the Women Effect transition.
  3. Great research is underway. With funding from the Tara Health Foundation, and in collaboration with the Center for High Impact Philanthropy (CHIP) at Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice, we have researched public equity funds that explicitly consider gender, the screens or tools that these funds use in their investment decisions, and the companies invested in. This work explores how public equity capital can be used to improve the lives of women, and draws from the CHIP research on evidence-based indicators correlated with positive improvement in the lives of women. This public equity research compliments the private equity research we have been conducting – and disseminating – over the past several years.
  4. A record number of students are getting involved. We have seen strong growth in the undergraduate and graduate student interest in gender lens investing. For the past several years, our Gender Lens Investing Fellows—comprised of undergraduate and graduate students from across Penn and Wharton—have been working on a range of field-building research projects. Our fellows have explored gender and finance in specific market sectors (in collaboration with Joy Anderson at Criterion Institute), as well as looking at trends and models for private equity funds with a focus on women. Stay tuned to our blog to hear insights from these students—what they are learning, and what they hope to see in the future.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we encourage you to think about your capital – whatever the amount – with a gender lens. Whether it is the money you tuck into a 401K, the cash you spend as a consumer on your coffee today, or your philanthropy, start asking questions about how what you spend, invest, or donate can have an impact on women.

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