Gender Smart | December 16, 2021

More than 200 funds apply a gender lens and most are setting firm quotas

Jessica Pothering
ImpactAlpha Editor

Jessica Pothering

ImpactAlpha, December 16 – The fourth edition of the Project Sage survey found 206 investment funds that incorporate a gender theme in their investments strategies, up from 138 in Project Sage 3.0.

“We are seeing an increase in the number of funds for which gender is one of many impact considerations,” the market report from Catalyst at Large and Wharton Social Impact Initiative found. “As such, the edges of the now-larger circle are getting blurrier.”

Perhaps as a result, a majority of investors are solidifying their commitments with firm mandates. More than 60% of the 206 funds have set quotas for the number of investments or percentage of capital that must be allocated to gender-lens strategies.

Funds that cite gender as their top impact priority include Acumen Latin Impact Ventures, Africa-focused Alitheia Partners, and New York-based CARE Enterprises.

Fundraising remains tough, with the funds reporting commitments of only $6 billion against their collective target of $13 billion; totals barely budged in the first half of this year. Sixty percent of funds are actively fundraising. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic may have made fundraising particularly challenging,” the report states.

Diverse angles

Investing in support of women and girls’ equality is “a multifaceted concept, and one that is not precisely defined,” the authors write. Among the common gender lenses investors use: gender equity in company ownership and leadership; products and services that improve the lives of women and girls; and companies that improve the lives of female customers and through their supply chains.


Venture capital is the most common strategy for gender-lens investors. Most focus on early-stage investments in the range of $1 million to $6 million, but about a quarter are targeting growth-stage investments, “demonstrating that gender lens investing is happening across all stages,” the Project Sage authors write.

Acumen Latin Impact Ventures’ $27.7 million early-growth fund, for example, has made seven investments, including Levee, a work-placement organization that focuses on low-skilled, low-income women, and online education provider Crehana Education.

Development goals

Collectively, the funds surveyed have made nearly 3,800 investments. More than 80% map their investments to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Half of all funds that target SDG #5: gender equality through strategies that focus on healthcare, agriculture, and fintech. A third of funds invest in clean tech, the environment and renewable energy.