By Morgan Matthews
One of the most inspiring sessions I had the pleasure of joining at the 2012 Social Capital Markets conference last week was the panel on gender lens investing. The panel, titled, “Gender Lens: Moving from Gender Lens Investing Ideas to Implementation” discussed the opportunities, challenges, and harsh realities women face in business today.
The precursor to this session was a riveting plenary presentation given by Jackie VanderBrug , managing director of Criterion Ventures and gender lens investing champion. In her presentation, Jackie stated that she is “increasingly convinced that a gender lens for investing is one of the biggest underexplored opportunities for driving social impact.” So what exactly is gender lens investing ? It is a relatively new concept in the world of finance, even within the realm of social impact investing. It is a “viewfinder” as Jackie puts it, for looking at different options and finding opportunities to have a larger social impact and increase returns. Jackie points out that it is a lens and not a screen; the purpose isn’t to leave men out. The purpose is to be aware of the opportunities to accelerate impact, social change and returns through various gender lenses such as access to capital, workplace equity, and products and services.
Why does investing in women have higher impacts than investing in men? Well, where to start? The case for investing in women has been proven several times over. In fact, the numbers are staggering. An article in The Economist titled A Guide to Womenomics points out that women are outperforming men in investing, achieving 50 percent higher average returns. Companies with three or more women on their boards have a 53 percent higher ROE. A Global Markets Institute report released by Goldman Sachs concluded that investing in women is the single best way to reduce inequality and drive economic growth. Data has shown that the increase in female employment slows population growth, increases GDP, and improves education rates and the health of families. Why? Women have different spending priorities than men. They spend more of their money on their family – to the tune of 80 percent of their total income compared with 30 percent of a male’s total income. Women put these dollars to work by spending them on the health, education, and nutritional well-being of their families. This has a ripple effect throughout a society.