Happy International Women’s Day, ImpactAlpha readers! Welcome to a special edition of The Brief.
#Featured: Women rising double feature
Gender equity is not only the smart thing, it’s the right thing, to invest in. There are all kinds of ways in which applying a gender lens provides an investment advantage. But what happens if those investment advantages don’t prove out, or if the context is more complex than it first appears? “There’s pushback on this investment-advantage argument,” ImpactAlpha’sDavid Bank observes in the latest ‘Returns on Investment’ podcast. “Should we have gender and racial inclusion because it’s a good investment, or because it’s the right thing to do?”
Our podcast regulars also asked whether Time’s Up for impact investing, along with the rest of finance, entertainment, news and politics. How strong is the performance of impact investment managers and funds in walking their own talk when it comes to promoting women to decision-making positions? Imogen Rose-Smith, an investment fellow with the University of California, mixes it up with podcast host Brian Walsh, head of impact for the fintech firm Liquidnet. Imogen took issue with Brian’s suggestion that the dearth of women in private equity and venture capital is function of a weak talent pipeline. “If you were to say to a woman that there aren’t enough talented women out there to do this special thing we call ‘private equity,’ they would say that is clearly bullshit,” Imogen says. “That is the excuse that every single private equity manager gives, that there is not enough talent. It’s not a talent problem.” The real question is, “How do we achieve system-change to ensure there is diversity throughout the system that is going to result in better and more diverse people in positions of authority?”
Read on at “Gender equity is not only the smart thing, it’s the right thing, to invest in.” Or, click straight to the podcast. Subscribe to all of ImpactAlpha’s Returns on Investments podcasts on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you listen.
Nine badass women redefining who builds businesses…and who writes the checks. Female founders grabbed just 2% of venture capital in 2017. Time’s up. These New Revivalists are reviving entrepreneurship in Oakland, New Orleans, Washington DC, Philadelphia and across the US. Zuleyma Bebell culled highlights from ImpactAlpha’s New Revivalists series with Village Capital.
#Dealflow: Follow the Money
OPIC earmarks $350 million to back women-run enterprises and investment funds. Recognizing the “great needs of women in emerging markets, and their collective economic force,” the US Overseas Private Investment Corp. is looking to spur an additional $650 million in private capital to back its new 2X Women’s Initiative. “Research shows that women worldwide face a $300 billion shortfall in access to credit and that expanding lending to women-owned businesses brings a significant positive impact to their families and communities,” Kathryn Kaufman, the initiative’s lead, states. OPIC, the self-sustaining development-finance arm of the US government, has already provided financing to Yes Bank and IndusInd Bank in India and Mongolia’s XacBank to expand lending to women-owned businesses.
Gates Foundation to commit $170 million to women and girls by 2022. The foundation’s gender equality initiative will target women and girls to help cut poverty. “No society can achieve its potential with half of its population marginalized and disempowered,” Melinda Gates writes. “We have not always been as intentional in this area as we might have been or as we intend to be in the future. As a result, we have lost opportunities to maximize our impact across all of the areas in which we work.” The foundation will invest $170 million in women-centered projects in financial inclusion, land ownership, market connectedness, and “self-help groups” — connecting women and girls on topics including health and digital technology. It has experimented with self-help group models in India and plans to expand to Africa.
RBC launches women-focused exchange traded fund tracking Canadian companies. RBC’s Global Asset Management group, which manages more than $400 billion in assets, has developed an ETF comprised of Canadian companies that have boards with at least 30% female representation and/or strong female director and executive-level representation. The RBC Vision Women’s Leadership MSCI Canada Index ETF will trade on the Toronto-based NEO Exchange. Top holdings include financial and energy companies, The Globe and Mail reports. Several other gender-focused ETFs are available in Canada. RBC’s is the first to invest exclusively in Canadian companies.
#Signals: Ahead of the Curve
Markets are under-weighted women. That’s a big problem for the global economy. From fund managers and boards to venture capitalists and startup founders, the global economy is over-weighted men. We’re leaving talent, profits, economic opportunity and yes, impact, on the table.
- Hear global voices. Ventures Africa, the pan-African business and innovation publication, queried its online community on the meaning of progress for women in 2018. Progress means “demolishing norms embedded in our society that stifle women and point us towards only one type of happiness,” wrote Nicole in Accra, Ghana. Bonus: “Nigerian engineers in hijabs: How these women are defying the-odds in a male-dominated industry.”
- Learn from doers. The ImPact, a family-office network, interviewed a dozen gender-lens investors to surface strategies for investing to boost gender equity in the workplace, back companies building products and services for women and address the systematic exclusion or exploitation of women. Molly Gochman’s family office, Stardust, for example, seeded Humanity United’s $23 million Working Capital fund to fight slavery and worker abuses in global supply chains, which hits women especially hard.
- Valuable resource. The International Women’s Day edition of The Impact Journal, a publication from Keene Advisors, includes an interview with Sara Brand, founder of True Wealth Ventures, one of the newest impact venture capital firms. It also records lessons from Jenny Abramson and Heidi Patel in their first year running ReThink Impact, one of the largest US venture capital firms with a gender lens.
- Both/And. Findings from investment research firm MSCI suggest firms with both gender diverse boards and high-quality talent management practices achieve higher employee productivity than their industry peers with either or neither.
Read, “An International Women’s Day roundup: Narrowing gaps, long-term leadership and gender lenses,” by Dennis Price on ImpactAlpha.
Thank you for reading. Onward! Please send news and comments to [email protected]