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Image: May Chanikran

If 2020 taught us one thing, it’s that the future will continue to unfold in ways we can’t predict.

The global crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic (and later, the Black Lives Matter protests and reckoning) forced all of us to change our plans for the year: from the solutions we were building, to speed at which we were building them, to how we would release them into the world, to the questions we asked ourselves and each other about what “good” looks like when it comes to alpha, equity, and impact.

But the year also featured plentiful bright spots in the world of gender-smart investing. Some of these were funds, commitments, and collaborations that had been in the works for years. Others emerged in response to the needs of the moment, or found new enthusiasm, support, or impact due to the unique set of challenges we were facing. …


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Photo credit: RichVintage

Like many groups of people working towards systemic change, the gender lens investing field can be divided into broad two camps: Disruptors and Shifters, or those who believe that the global finance system is so broken that it needs to be remade from the ground up, and those who believe that the best way to change the system is to work within it.

These two groups of players are often framed as being in opposition to one another, but the truth is that we need both kinds of people to achieve the kind of systemic transformation and mass movement of capital we want to see. We might even play both roles at different points in our careers. What’s more, we’re more likely to achieve the transformations we seek if we work together and build off each other’s efforts. …


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At the beginning of the northern hemisphere summer, as people took to the streets around the world for Black Lives Matter, my phone began to ring off the hook with investors wanting to know how they could invest more intentionally with an eye to both gender, and racial and ethnic diversity and equity.

The last few months have been a time of reckoning for so many industries and sectors, and gender lens investing is no exception. Our field is grounded in principles of equity and justice. But too often in our fight to make sure that women are seen and included across the investment chain, we have failed to pay sufficient attention to other forms of diversity, be they racial and ethnic equity amongst women, or even diversity of gender identity and expression. …


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Last month, I published an article detailing five areas gender-smart investors should be looking at in emerging markets if we want to pave the road to recovery and rebuilding post-COVID-19.

I argued that COVID-19 was not solely a health crisis but also a social and economic crisis, and that if we want to make sure the coronavirus doesn’t leave women further behind, we need to be paying attention to its impacts on arenas such as care and unpaid labor, young women’s pathways from education to employment, financial inclusion, access to technology, and energy.

The same is true in the world’s wealthiest countries, where the coronavirus has also had a disproportionate impact on women and people of color, and where there are plentiful opportunities to move your capital in ways that create impact and enhance equality. …


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Image: istockphoto.com

The COVID-19 crisis has spurred rapid investment in public health responses such as testing and vaccines, and rightly so.

But the novel coronavirus isn’t solely a health crisis: it’s also a social and economic crisis that is impacting and reshaping every part of our lives. This means that our investment response to the crisis needs to look beyond the health impacts, to issues and sectors that might not immediately come to mind when you think of a global pandemic.

This is the first in a series of two articles — the first focused on emerging markets, and the second on developed markets — outlining the issues and sectors investors need to be paying attention to right now if we don’t want this crisis to leave women further behind. The issues in this article are important at all times, but they have been made even more urgent by the coronavirus pandemic, which has exacerbated existing gendered divisions in unpaid labor, employment, and access to technology, information, and financial services. …


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In the second week of March, following the difficult announcement that due to the COVID-19 crisis we would be postponing the GenderSmart Investing Summit to December, I received an invitation.

It was from FutureWomenX, a leadership development community I’m a part of whose sub-group of leaders in gender finance had been planning to come together for a retreat immediately following the Summit, and who were now looking for a way to support each other online instead. …


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In the face of a global crisis the magnitude of COVID-19, each of us have different ways of coping.

For me, I cope by focusing my attention on the places I have influence and make an impact. Like so many others, I have been hit in the last couple of weeks with stories of friends and colleagues around the world getting sick. But I find hope in difficult times by turning my attention to the people who are working to transform our planet and financial systems, and then doing everything in my power to support and elevate their work.

Every day I am having conversations with extraordinary gender-smart fund managers, entrepreneurs, funders, investors, and intermediaries who are directing their resources and brain power to where it is needed most: around issues such as health care, food security, mental health, health care, and digital and financial inclusion. …


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Earlier this month, Veris Wealth Partners published their latest figures on the size and growth of gender lens products in public markets. I’m so pleased to have been a contributor to this research, along with Diana van Maasdijk of Equileap, and am grateful for Veris’s leadership and commitment to building the gender lens investing field over the last 10 years.

Veris’s numbers show $3.4 billion in assets under management in the public markets as of June 30th 2019, up from $2.4 billion in 2018. One reason for this tremendous increase is that three funds out of Asia, which should have been reflected in earlier numbers, weren’t previously on our radar. …


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credit: istockphoto

It’s a classic question in investing: do you go for scale or do you go for depth?

Ideally, of course, you can have both. Scale and depth aren’t mutually exclusive, and at best, each one feeds into the other. But achieving either takes hard work and careful strategy — and the work required to bring a sector or lens to scale is rarely the same work required to make sure that capital is moved with maximum impact.

As gender lens investing continues to grow in size and visibility, I want to dedicate time this year to write deeply on both of these questions. What do we in the gender lens investing community need to do in order to truly scale? …


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By Suzanne Biegel & Rebecca Fries

With 16 million acres of wildfires burning across Australia, drought causing critical water shortages in southern Africa, and Extinction Rebellion storming the streets in the UK, the urgency of climate change is on everyone’s minds right now — and we are no exception.

Both of us work at the intersection of gender and finance: as CEO of Catalyst At Large and co-producer of the GenderSmart Investing Summit, Suzanne works with institutional and private investors to sharpen their gender strategy for better social and financial returns, while as Managing Director of Value For Women, Rebecca works with businesses, banks and investors that want to advance gender inclusion in energy, agriculture, and entrepreneurship. …

About

suzanne biegel

Catalyst at Large

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