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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Impact investing: due diligence with a gender lens – or, Where the women and girls are

I’ve been working on investing with a women and girls focus for a long time.

And my husband has been working on his running for a long time. He’s an ultra marathoner – a good one. He’s both a natural, and he works at it. What do these things have to do with each other? It’s about practising, training, working at it.  And… personal bests.

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Routes into impact investing: why we must embrace different motivations

In the past few weeks, I have spent time in Africa and the UK working with entrepreneurs, charities, grantmakers and investors who want to make the world a better place. Something that is becoming clear to me is the need to talk about the different ways investors can be involved. When we are encouraging individuals who want to use their personal capital (as well as foundations using their endowment or their grantmaking pot), it is vital that we recognise that investors can (and should) have different roles to play. Only once we’re comfortable recognising the different motivations of different investors will we be able to really unlock the capital needed by the thousands of businesses doing good and doing well.

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Getting real on measurement: the role of the impact investor (ClearlySo)

It’s been well over a decade now that I’ve been investing in growing businesses – and charities – tackling ingrained social and environmental challenges. I have some truly exciting companies in my portfolio, some of which have grown significantly in the last couple of years. It’s an honour to be part of their journey, and I am glad to offer my skills and experience when they need it (and sometimes when they think they don’t). But as an impact investor, I am very aware of the risks we run when we ask the entrepreneurs for too much, too early; it’s time to get real about the practicalities of impact measurement.

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Nail it before you scale it - view from a seasoned impact investor

As an angel investor, most of my impact investments are focused on earlier stage ventures looking to grow and scale both their business and their impact. It’s truly exciting to be a part of an entrepreneur’s growth and watch a business grow every year in orders of magnitude. More than ever in terms of businesses focused on impact, however, investors have a responsibility in helping to guide that growth sustainably.

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An investor offers a challenge to wealth managers

I was at the Skoll World Forum last week, which was a huge celebration of “social entrepreneurship” – celebrating entrepreneurs solving social challenges around the world. I was there with my investor and funder hat on – meeting entrepreneurs, hearing the stories of other individual and institutional investors and looking forward to creating more change by collaborating in how we invest our capital.

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