After a decades-long outcry for data proving that gender-smart investing makes financial sense, today reams of evidence show that including women in government leads to more stable societies, educating women creates stronger communities, including women on company boards leads to better organizational performance, and access to contraceptives contributes to a stable economy.
Once viewed as a niche strategy, gender-lens investments are emerging as an important source of funding for organizations, products, and services that benefit women. According to Wharton Social Impact Initiative’s Project Sage—a landscape analysis of structured private equity, venture capital, and private debt vehicles—total capital with a gender lens cleared $2.2 billion in 2018 and is increasing. Investors are structuring portfolios and leadership teams to include the still-underserved half of the human population, and discovering that their actions are generating results beyond the bottom line.
But while gender-lens investing has enormous momentum, there is more work to do, especially in structuring organizational leadership to include all women. Here are four major themes that should be at the front of gender-lens investors’ minds in 2019.
1. The Time Is Now
According to the latest report by the gender-lens investment accelerator Catalyst at Large and investment advisor Veris Wealth Partners, assets under management with a gender-lens mandate grew 85 percent in the 12 months prior to July 2018, as global investors added more than $1 billion to a range of gender-smart strategies. Meanwhile, our impact investor network, Toniic, updated a T100 study of 100-percent impact portfolios and found that across 76 private portfolios, about $38 million was invested with gender lens as the primary criteria.
However, these amounts are a drop in the bucket of the overall financial system, and there remain investable opportunities across sectors, asset classes, and focus areas, including women-inclusive corporate policies, women’s leadership and capital, and products and services for women.
Ruth Shaber, a Toniic member and T100 study participant, embodies the “go for it” approach to gender-lens investing that more impact investors should embrace. Shaber is not just dipping her toe in the water; since she founded the Tara Health Foundation in 2014, she has committed 100 percent of its portfolio to identifying and supporting solutions for women’s health. The foundation actively seeks out opportunities to provide healthcare and reproductive care for women in the United States and abroad. Among its investments is Cadence Health, a startup that aims to make low-cost birth control pills available over the counter.