Six years ago, colleagues at the UK’s Department For International Development and the Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect team came me to with their idea for what would become the SPRING Accelerator. The aim was to identify and support businesses that could improve the lives of adolescent girls and young women - whether as leaders, consumers, or otherwise. We wanted to use human centered design (HCD) to build a base of examples that would help investors see that businesses that focused on women and girls were smart bets.
Below are a selection of articles and columns Suzanne has published on gender-smart investing.
I started investing in women and girls in the early 2000s, after I successfully exited the company I helped to build. As an entrepreneur myself, I was familiar with the challenges women founders face. Too often, they are underestimated, unseen, and undercapitalized - you’re probably familiar with the statistic that women have received just 2.2% of venture capital in the US and even less in other places in the past several years. I wanted to use my capital to back not only women entrepreneurs but also businesses that are good for women and girls.
In January, Wharton Social Impact Initiative and my firm, Catalyst at Large, released Project Sage 2.0, a global scan of 87 private equity, venture capital, and private debt funds that explicitly incorporate a gender lens in their investment strategy.
Over the coming weeks I’ll be sharing with you what I believe are some of the most interesting themes to emerge from the study.
In February, I travelled to Nairobi for the Sankalp Africa Summit, a gathering of social entrepreneurs and investors working to reshape the continent’s development landscape, where I led a discussion about investing to improve the lives of adolescent girls and young women for SPRING, where I've been Investment Director.
In January, Wharton Social Impact Initiative and my firm, Catalyst at Large, released Project Sage 2.0, a global scan of 87 private equity, venture capital, and private debt funds that incorporate a gender lens in their investment strategy.
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing with you what I believe are some of the most interesting themes to emerge from the study, starting today with the way that new forms of diversity are showing up in investment criteria — or as I put it in the title of this piece, the rise of the intersectional venture fund. (The views expressed here are my own as Catalyst at Large, and not with my Wharton Social Impact Initiative hat.)
As a connector and catalyst in the gender finance space, I know that moving more capital, more strategically, in a gender-smart way requires not just influencing individuals and institutions, but shifting systems: of government, state finance, civil society, banking, shareholders, information, public discourse, and more.
The first ever Gender-Smart Investing Summit will take place in London this November. Leaders will come together to address how to deploy more capital, more strategically, with more velocity to achieve gender equality and to use finance as a tool to address issues that disproportionately affect women and girls.
Investing can be viewed as a lever in to drive policy interventions, public sector shifts in procurement and budgeting, philanthropy, media and culture, and even shifts in business behaviour. This concept isn’t new. Impact investing has become popular by fuelling investments with both social and economic objectives. Take it a step further, using a gender lens means being intentional about the gender factors and outcomes in financial decisions in order to make investments that are smarter and more impactful for women and girls.
This article is part of a Special Series titled How to #PressForProgress in Women’s Entrepreneurship by the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards. The series contributes to the #InternationalWomensDay dialogue on empowering women around the world through entrepreneurship.
The shame of #metoo aside, venture capital (VC) is broken at a systemic level. Even if huge amounts of capital started shifting towards women tomorrow, it would take years to close the $300 billion funding gap.
Accelerating the movement of capital toward women requires normalizing the notion that investing in women is smart
“There’s a strong chance the next Bill Gates isn’t going to look anything like the last one,” wrote Melinda Gates in a recent post taking venture capitalists to task for not putting diversity at the top of their agenda. “So I’m interested in finding solutions that will help ensure we recognize her when we see her.”
So am I. So I say: it’s time to own your gender-lens investing.
How can inclusive business help reach SDG Global Goal 5 of achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls? This month, in partnership with SPRING, we hear from a range of stakeholders to find out. This series shows there is much happening, data emerging, clear good practice and many useful tools to measure and improve gender responsiveness, but more to be done.