Women’s rights and empowerment are receiving renewed global policy attention: The United Nations' 20th anniversary of the World Conference of Women and the “Sustainable Development Goals” have enshrined the global goal of gender equality.
Another global trend is also capturing the spotlight: More than 2,000 individuals and 400 organizations, representing more than $2.6 trillion in assets worldwide, have pledged to divest from fossil fuels. As the risks of catastrophic climate change mount, investors are pulling funds out of carbon assets and redirecting them toward a clean energy future.
Are there points of intersection between these key global trends? As the Divest-Invest movement gains scope and speed and frees up resources for clean tech and “green” energy, could it also help channel new dollars toward women and girls?
The emerging field of “gender lens investing” hints that the answer to this question is “yes”.
A growing number of impact investors are seeking women-centered opportunities: The Global Impact Investing Network’s annual survey revealed that a third of all respondents sought investments promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. Over the past five years, billions of dollars have been channeled into new women-themed investment products across all asset classes
Does supply exist to meet this demand? And do these opportunities avoid tokenism and “pink-washing”? Do they meaningfully promote gender equity and empower women?
To begin exploring these questions, the Wallace Global Fund partnered with the Criterion Institute and commissioned a survey of the current state of the field of gender lens investing. The Fund has long championed women’s global human rights and empowerment, and its grantmaking supports women activists battling the growing economic inequities and climate change impacts that threaten their rights and livelihoods. We see a need for new strategies that decentralize and democratize energy systems and increase energy access for the most marginalized, including the world’s poorest women. To achieve this vision, grant dollars won’t be enough: the Fund’s investment portfolio can also help support these program goals.
The Criterion Institute’s “The State of the Field of Gender Lens Investing” explores the origins and potential of gender lens investing. The report reveals how the field has moved from counting women to valuing gender. It examines how the field has progressed from seeing women as an investment “screen” to a major opportunity. It examines how this “opportunity” must reflect a rights-based and comprehensive approach to women’s empowerment.
This report is not intended to sit on a shelf – or in a computer file. It is a working draft awaiting insights, additions, and responses from others. We hope that the report’s release will kick off a vibrant and spirited conversation, and that this conversation will lead to action.
As the global Divest-Invest Campaign gains momentum and frees up fossil fuel assets for good, as the world rallies behind the Sustainable Development Goals, and as the field of gender lens investing picks up strength and speed, we hope that these combined forces will generate and redirect capital flows to support the world’s under-resourced women.
This post is part of the conversation around the new report, “The State of the Field of Gender Lens Investing” and is published in partnership with Criterion Institute. Join the conversation by sending your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.