Gender inequality is in the spotlight like never before. If the global strikes and protests of last year’s International Women’s Day reminded us of the scale and importance of the challenge, they also showed us that genuine change is within reach. This year, we must ask ourselves how we can maintain and accelerate momentum. A good place to start is looking at how we can put our money to work to drive change.
There are trillions of dollars of private investment capital circulating in the world. If we harness it correctly, we can create a fairer and more prosperous future.
How? By investing intentionally in women and girls to close the persistent economic gender gap. On current trends, parity with men on job opportunities and wages is still 202 years away. Yet, if women play an identical role in labor markets to that of men, as much as $28 trillion (or 26%) could be added to global annual GDP by 2025.
When women do earn a competitive income, they have been shown to invest in their families, creating healthier households and stronger communities. Better gender diversity in companies also means better business performance. This is a smart investment strategy.
The opportunity in closing the gender gap is enormous: we are leaving so much talent, resources and — let’s be honest — money on the table. Public funding programs do a lot of good. Look at the 2X Challenge, which aims to mobilize $3 billion of investment in women globally. But it’s not enough. If we’re serious about seizing that opportunity and helping to reduce inequality, we all need to be involved.
Gender lens investing
As the name implies, gender lens investing (GLI) is about layering another way of looking at investment over our traditional criteria. In short, it’s investing to intentionally drive gender equality.
GLI is about examining the role of gender in every aspect of investment. This can mean making investment decisions that factor in things like female representation in the business’ leadership or the company’s impact on its community with regards to gender. Or it can mean investing in companies or funds actively looking to improve gender equality with their business model and/or investments. If we look to our network of impact investors, for example, the UK’s Big Society Capital is developing the world’s first gender lens property fund to provide housing for vulnerable women.
Or look at Asia’s Patamar Capital, working with the Australian government’s Investing in Women initiative to finance the growth of women-owned small businesses in Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, mentoring and training female entrepreneurs alongside investment. Calvert Impact Capital‘s GLI strategy, which started with examining gender dynamics across their portfolio, has evolved to taking a sector and region-focused approach. Its first sector approach to empowering women and girls has focused on providing debt capital to increase access to clean energy to women in the developing world.