Systems Mapping as a Tool for Systems Change in Gender Finance

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.

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Finance as a Tool for Social Change and Gender Equality (Women Deliver Op-Ed)

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.

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Fixing venture capital for women entrepreneurs

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. 

VC is working for some women entrepreneurs, don’t get me wrong. I recently wrote about 58 funds with an explicit gender lens in collaboration with Wharton Social Impact Initiative.

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Why some venture capitalists talk about gender (and others don’t)

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.

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Opportunities for inclusive business to empower women   

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.    

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New Research: Tracking Private Equity (Venture) and Debt Funds with a Gender Lens

As a long-time investor and connector in the gender lens investing space, I’m constantly asked about vehicles directing capital towards women, across all asset classes and sectors. What investment opportunities are there? Where are these investments targeted? What gaps still need to be filled?

Last year, I worked with Veris Wealth Partners to help answer some of those questions about public equity and debt funds. Our resulting landscape map, Project Rose, recorded public equity and debt funds and structured investment vehicles with a gender lens mandate. We uncovered 15 vehicles with a total market cap of over $600 million and a variety of definitions of ‘gender lens’. An update is coming this autumn and we’re excited by what we’re seeing in the growth of new funds or vehicles and assets under management. 

I’m now working with Wharton Social Impact Initiative (WSII), with input from Veris Wealth Partners, to launch Project Sage, a landscape of gender lens activity within private equity (venture) and debt funds and structured vehicles.

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Here’s why climate and gender investors should collaborate

Environmental issues — that’s what I started with in impact investing 17 years ago — and they’re still as much a part of my investment thesis as gender equity. Yet even though I see the connections between gender and climate change/environment — between women and clean energy, and women and sustainable food, for example — I’ve often been split between them in terms of how I spend my time and resources.

Thankfully, Paul Hawken’s new book Drawdown provides the insights and data to achieve the greatest possible impact in both spheres. The book translates research from the world’s leading climate scientists and strategists into 100 solutions for reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, ranked in order of overall impact and cost effectiveness.

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Thinking differently about gender equality and finance

As part of a forthcoming panel at the Resnick Aspen Action Forum, i’ve been asked to think about how, as leaders, we can play our part in advancing gender equality. In a time of so much turbulence — economic, social, environmental, political, cultural, technological — there are opportunities for huge directional shifts, but we need a compass to keep us on course.

My particular focus and point of influence is finance and investment. I and many others believe that considering how we deploy capital can get us towards a gender equitable world. This is broader than increasing the visibility and quantity of women founders and entrepreneurs who get funded. We can also use our roles as investors and board members to shift things much more intentionally and strategically to reflect the social, environmental and gender equitable world we want to see, with positive financial outcomes.

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Suzanne will be speaking on a panel discussing the Gender Re-set at the Resnick Aspen Action Forum on 28 July 2017.


Realizing the potential of women entrepreneurs in Africa

Gender lens investing is gaining traction with investors around the globe and Africa is no exception. In my role as senior gender lens investing advisor at the Wharton Social Impact Initiative, I got together with Isis Nyong’o Madison to reflect on discussions and lessons learned at Sankalp Africa Summit. The 2017 gathering of more than 1,000 investors, fund managers, entrepreneurs, and intermediaries focused on building inclusive economies. We thought we’d share some key takeaways for reducing barriers and improving the investment ecosystem.

In a tent under the Nairobi sky, we recently gathered for engaging conversation on gender lens investing in early-stage and growth businesses in Africa. What are the barriers facing women entrepreneurs? What biases are women entrepreneurs subject to? What types of capital are available — or still needed?

At Sankalp Africa, four powerhouse African women led the discussion: Andia Chakava from New Faces New VoicesIsis Nyong’o Madison founder of Kenyan parenting platform MumsVillage and advisory firm Asphalt & InkWanjiru Kamau Rutenberg from AWARD and GAIA, and Makena Mworiafrom Kenya Women Holding.

This post originally appeared on the Wharton Social Impact Initiative blog on May 3, 2017.

Harry Specters – A Chocolate and Social Finance Love Story

This is a story of love, autism, chocolate, and innovative social finance.  Full disclosure – I’m an investor in this company and this is my first “chocolate bond” which I’m deliciously excited about.

Harry Specters make handcrafted chocolates, while giving hope and confidence to young people with autism through employment and free work experience placements.

Mona Shah, the founder, loves and has been working with chocolate for the past 15 years following a successful first career in the NHS mental health arena. (Personally, I think that there’s an obvious link between chocolate and mental health but she doesn’t lead with that.) She and Shaz, her co-founder and husband, have a son with autism who is the inspiration for the company. As parents, they understand the fears and anxieties that most parents and carers of people on the autism spectrum face on a daily basis. The worst fears are related to the future prospects of their loved ones, their independence and ability to lead a meaningful life.  So this is a chocolate story, an autism story, a love story (this wonderful couple and their love, and the love of their son.)

(Written by Suzanne Biegel, with great help from Matias Wibowo from ClearlySoImages: 

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