Women employed by Acumen investee Avani Bio Energy carry pine needles to convert to renewable energy in India.

Since 2001, Acumen has invested in companies that serve some of the world’s poorest customers. We have seen firsthand the positive change that comes from leaders and entrepreneurs who challenge the status quo. We have also seen, through our portfolio of social enterprises, the tangible rewards a company gains when they integrate women across the entire value chain. Despite this, gender inequality persists and women continue to be systematically excluded from mainstream opportunities.

There is plenty of research about the cost of marginalizing women in the global economy as a whole — but, to date, there has been little data that zeroes in on the participation of women in low-income populations in the developing world. To address this need, we joined forces with the International Center for Research on Women and, with funding from the Cartier Foundation, turned a lens on our own portfolio of companies.

Together, we have published Women and Social Enterprises: How Gender Integration Can Boost Entrepreneurial Solutions to Poverty. As you will see from the case studies included in the report, we found that better integration of women helps increase the financial viability of our companies as well their social performance. Looking at our investments through a lens of gender, we can now bring greater rigor to evaluating their success as social enterprises, and can use this information to broaden their impact.

It is our pleasure to share this framework and diverse set of case studies to encourage entrepreneurs, impact investors and philanthropists to further examine specific ways in which they can integrate women into business model innovations and as key decision makers. It is our hope that these insights not only spur more companies to consider better integration of both men and women into their business models and across their value chains, but that they also contribute to working toward a more just world in which everyone, regardless of gender, has the opportunity to build a life based on dignity.

We hope you will join me in pursuing these goals and, ultimately, deepen our collective impact. The world has never needed it more.