It’s confession time and I’m coming clean. I am completely new to the work of Gender Lens Investing. (A moment please while I hide my face in shame.) At this point you may be wondering why I’m suddenly interested and the answer may surprise you.
I recently overheard women discussing hand bags. Hand bags! Ever wondered who makes these beautiful essentials carried by women everywhere? I learned that, ironically, something universally used by women (and any number of other consumer goods) can be produced in conditions that are detrimental to women’s well-being. And I learned that I can choose to spend my consumer (and investment) dollars in a way that supports women. This conversation, and those I been involved in since becoming part of Catalytic Women, has inspired me to want to learn more.
I’ve recently had the pleasure of hearing Jennifer John, Project Manager of Criterion Institute, speak on this topic during our monthly collaborative webinars on gender lens investing. What’s even better, these webinars focus on newcomers (like myself) and are meant as an entry point into dialogue. During May’s webinar Jennifer was joined by panelists Siiri Morely, Director of Prosperity Catalyst, and Becky Bailey, Senior Portfolio Manager and Acting Director of Operations of Agora Partnerships. These three dynamic women provided such a vibrant and informative discussion that I couldn’t help but be inspired. Below are a few excerpts from May’s discussion.
Jennifer began by defining gender and explaining what it means to invest with a gender lens. According to Criterion Institute, “Gender is term that refers to your gendered life experience in the social construct that you live. It is thought more of as ‘gender identity,’ and varies over time and from place to place. Investing with a gender lens involves making investment decisions that support gender equality while seeking positive financial return.” I sensed a definitive message forming here. Investing with a gender lens -with gender equality as a focus- makes you a smarter investor. More importantly, it means “moving trillions versus millions,” of dollars (quoted from Jackie Zehner, Chief Engagement Officer and President of Women Moving Millions). Wow! Trillions versus millions? Tell me more…
Siiri Morley then went on to speak about her non-profit organization Prosperity Catalyst, and its for-profit social enterprise partner Prosperity Candle. Their focus is to help women take control of their own economic agency. Prosperity Catalyst provides an environment where women from poverty can become self-sustaining entrepreneurs. Prosperity Candle “empowers women to rebuild their lives through candle making.” Providing women with the resources and tools to take control of their own lives is profound.
Siiri’s dialogue was an excellent segue into Becky Bailey’s work with Agora Partnerships. Agora strives to “unleash the potential” of impact entrepreneurs. To do this Agora provides entrepreneurs with the necessary knowledge, networks and capital so they have the tools to solve critical problems in their focus area. Agora works with entrepreneurs on the ground through accelerator programs in order to affect, and scale, positive change. Genius!
What did I take away from this event?
That I want to invite others to the dialogue, to bring women to the table and most importantly, to think outside the box myself when I consider my own purchasing and investing decisions . And, of course, to continue my quest for more knowledge on the work of gender lens investing and women funding social impact.