Gender Smart | December 19, 2017

A baker’s dozen of investment funds and tools mobilizing capital for women and girls

The team at


In 2017, #MeToo became the shorthand for a long-overdue reckoning with sexual assault and harassment. Next year, #MeToo could very well be a trending hashtag for investors, fund managers and advisors moving billions into women-led and women-focused ventures, funds and investment products.

That capital could help make possible the realization of Sustainable Development Goal № 5: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” ImpactAlpha has been is tracking the global shift.

  1. Australia first Gender Equality Bond was oversubscribed 20-fold drawing A$8.25 billion ($6.3 billion) in interest from investors for the A$400 million ($303 million) issue. The bond backs companies promoting women leaders and closing the pay gap. (Note: an earlier version of this post incorrectly reported the bond had raised A$8.25 billion — that’s a lot!)

Demand for gender-equality bond shows potential for “women-themed” investing

2. The International Finance Corp. raised $500 million from more than 40 institutional investors for its first social bond backing women-led companies and low-income communities.

IFC’s first “Social Bond” raises $500 million for women-led companies and low-income communities

3. The Impact Investment Exchange (IIX) listed its Women’s Livelihood Bond on Singapore Stock Exchange. The bond raised $8 million to help 385,000 women in Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines build sustainable livelihoods.

IIX raises $8 million with Women’s Livelihood Bond on Singapore Stock Exchange

4. The UBS Optimus Foundation is leading a $3.5 million development impact bond in Rajasthan, India, to reduce maternal and infant mortality. The “Utkrisht” bond hopes to prevent 10,000 deaths over the next five years.

UBS philanthropic arm leads first maternal-health DIB

5. Another UBS-backed development impact bond in India began delivering positive results in girls’ education. The Educate Girls bond, now in its second year, has achieved 87.7% of its enrollment target and 50.3% of its learning target for its three-year term.

Development impact bond in India delivers positive results for girls and investors

6. Agora Partnerships is funneling working capital into women-led small businesses in Nicaragua through loans tied to business cash-flow. Agora’s lending program is backed by USAID and the Argidius Foundation, and local bank, Banco de America Central (BAC) Nicaragua.

Agora Partnerships facilitates variable-payment loans in Nicaragua

7. The YWCA in Arizona has created $1 million loan fund for minority women entrepreneurs. The fund’s mission is two-fold: get more capital to underserved women, and to economically underserved areas.

YWCA in Arizona creates $1 million loan fund for minority women entrepreneurs

8. Rethink Impact raised $110 million for women-led social startups tackling the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Most of the capital came from UBS Wealth Management Americas. (UBS has pledged $5 billion to achieve the SDGs, but the Swiss bank’s commitment to women might be its own trend to watch.)

Rethink Impact raises $110 million for women-led social startups

9. As part of Unilever’s agreement to acquire Sundial — a $240 million hair and skincare brand founded by Liberian immigrants, the companies have committed $50 million toward a $100 million New Voices Fund for startups led by women of color.

Unilever and Sundial launch $100 million startup fund for women of color

10. Bárbara Kunde Minuzzi and Daniela Arruda founded raised $30 million through their venture capital fund Babel Ventures to back Latino entrepreneurs. Babel Ventures is among the rare U.S.-based VC funds led by women.

Women-led Babel Ventures raises $30 million to back Latino entrepreneurs

11. The Indian state of Karnataka launched a $1.5 million “proof of concept” fund to help women entrepreneurs pilot their products and ideas, part of a $333 million initiative to nurture 20,000 tech, social impact and other startups by 2020.

Karnataka launches “proof of concept” fund for women entrepreneurs

12. South African investment firm Sekunjalo Investment Group is staking $37 million on a fund for women-owned renewable energy businesses.

South African firm stakes $37 million on new fund for renewables and women-owned businesses

13. And finally, Hong Kong-based Delphnium Capital Partners has raised $16 million for a fund combatting the drop in female company leadership in Asia. The fund offers growth capital for mid-size companies with a strong roster of female senior executives.

Hong Kong fund raises $16 million to back women business leaders in Asia