Learning from Gender Lens Investing
Upstart Co-Lab’s approach to introducing a Creativity Lens is modeled on how investors and advocates built the Gender Lens for investing to elevate women and girls.1
Investing with the goal of supporting women traces its roots back at least 40 years from the time of this writing to the founding in 1976 of Women’s World Banking, a microfinance nonprofit focused on women. Gender Lens investing took another big step in 1993 when Linda Pei launched the Women’s Equity Fund, the first mutual fund that incorporated analysis of company policies towards women into its investment strategy.
Then in 2010, the Criterion Institute, led by Joy Anderson and Jackie VanderBrug, created The Women Effect Investments Initiative.1 The Initiative started as a series of conversations with leaders in finance and a set of research questions on how gender impacts business. Over five years, the Initiative built the business and investment case for a Gender Lens, hosted convenings to problem-solve and promote Gender Lens investing, and worked with wealth advisors, Community Development Finance Institutions, and impact investors to launch several new investment products for investing with a Gender Lens.
Gender Lens investing has grown from an idea to an investable strategy in a short timeframe. A 2015 report by Veris Wealth Partners outlined a sample of available public and private Gender Lens investment opportunities, including five in private equity, six in public equity, three in private fixed income, three in public fixed income, and one in each of private and public customized portfolios.3 In their 2016 annual study on impact investing, USSIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, tracked assets invested through a Gender Lens and found nearly $132 billion in money manager assets and $397 billion in institutional investor assets.4
Gender Lens advocates made significant progress quickly by simultaneously pursuing several objectives: framing the investment case through research and thought leadership; building a coalition of stakeholders and supporters through outreach and convenings; and developing investment products that enable impact investors to target their capital.
Joseph Quinlan and Jackie VanderBrug, Gender Lens Investing: Uncovering Opportunities for Growth, Returns, and Impact, 2017 and Criterion Institute, The State of the Field of Gender Lens Investing: A Review and A Road Map, 2015, https://criterioninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Latest-State-of-the-Field-of-Gender-Lens-Investing-7-28-2016-V1.pdf.2
Criterion Institute, The State of the Field of Gender Lens Investing: A Review and A Road Map, 2015, https://criterioninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Latest-State-of-the-Field-of-Gender-Lens-Investing-7-28-2016-V1.pdf.3
Veris Wealth Partners, Women, Wealth & Impact: Investing with a Gender Lens 2.0, March 2015, p5.4
Executive Summary, US Sustainable, Responsible and Impact Investing Trends, 2016, p16. http://www.ussif.org/files/SIF_Trends_16_Executive_Summary(1).pdf