Gender-lens Investing: How Does It Work?

I was surprised to read about gender-lens investing recently in an article by Paul Sullivan in the New York Times. I just didn’t know it existed. It is defined as “investing strategically to help advance women’s causes while earning a return.” I have heard of socially responsible investing where investors look for companies that “do no harm” to the environment or the communities in which they are located. Gender-lens investing falls under the umbrella of socially responsible investing with the additional goals of impacting positive social change and producing a financial return for the investor. Specifically, Sullivan explains that investments are made to “promote gender equality and women’s empowerment through both debt and equity investments in the United States and emerging markets.” There are three options currently utilized for making gender-lens investments:

  1. Make money available to enterprises owned by women.
  2. Focus on employment for women.
  3. Invest in companies that provide products and services that help women. An example is a company that provides clean-burning cook stoves to women in Africa and Latin America or companies that get water-purification systems to rural areas.
I had heard of grant-making organizations, such as the Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund (VGIF) where small grants are made globally to fund women-led grassroots projects in developing countries that advance the rights of women and girls. The grants are made from donated funds and are not expected to be repaid, although their impact is measured. I have also heard about microcredit, where microloans to women have been a successful tool for alleviating poverty in developing countries, although critics disagree with the claims of positive social impact. Gender-lens investing is a different approach to creating positive social change for women and girls, and we need multiple approaches. I am not a person of wealth, but I do have retirement savings that are invested. I’m intrigued by the idea of not only saving for my future but also helping women and girls at the same time. Do you have experience with gender-lens investing? If yes, what have you learned about it that might help others take a step in that direction? Let us hear from you.   Image courtesy of Ambro at]]>