Gender Lens Investing Initiative

Fall 2017 - Spring 2019

The GIIN’s Gender Lens Investing Initiative supported impact investors, actively integrating, or interested in integrating, a gender lens strategy into their investment portfolio. While the Gender Lens Investing Initiative and Working Group have concluded, the GIIN is committed to continuing to serve as a knowledge hub for gender lens investing. See below for more information and resources.

Gender Lens Investing Overview

Gender Lens Investing (GLI) is a strategy or approach to investing that takes into consideration gender-based factors across the investment process to advance gender equality and better inform investment decisions. The GIIN has done, and continues to do, extensive work geared towards supporting investors to implement a gender lens investing. As an initial reference point, the GIIN defines gender lens investing within two broad categories:

Investing with the intent to address gender issues or promote gender equity, including by:

  • Investing in women-owned or women-led enterprises
  • Investing in enterprises that promote workplace equity (in staffing, management, boardroom representation, and along their supply chains); or
  • Investing in enterprises that offer products or services that substantially improve the lives of women and girls

 And/or investing with the following approaches to inform investment decisions:

  • a process that focuses on gender, from pre-investment activities (e.g., sourcing and due diligence) to post-deal monitoring (e.g., strategic advisory and exiting); or
  • a strategy that examines, with respect to the investee enterprises:
    • Their vision or mission to address gender issues
    • Their organizational structure, culture, internal policies, and workplace environment;
    • Their use of data and metrics for the gender-equitable management of performance and to incentivize behavioral change and accountability; and
    • How their financial and human resources signify overall commitment to gender equality.

Why is Gender Lens Investing Important?

At its core, gender lens investing seeks to close what is commonly referred to as the “gender gap.” As defined by the World Economic Forum, “the gender gap is the difference between women and men as reflected in social, political, intellectual, cultural, or economic attainments or attitudes.” Within each of these areas there are various measurements or indexes by which gender inequality can be calculated. For example, assessing this issue from an economic standpoint, one can cite the difference in salaries, or in terms of gender parity within the workplace, the ratio of female employees in leadership positions.

The lack of gender equity has been a systemic issue in the business and investment community throughout its existence, but, for some time now, there is growing evidence that pursuing gender equity as an investor will have positive benefits for the investment, business, and society.

The value of making investment decisions which have a positive impact and benefit women can manifest in numerous ways. Many of these outcomes often have complementary and compounding effects on the strength and long-term success of an investment or business. A few examples include:

  • Financial performance of companies with women in leadership - Companies with women in executive management repeatedly outperform companies that have no women in senior roles. This is the same case for companies with women on their boards.

  • Securing talent from a larger pool of talent - with 50% of the world’s population being women, this group is underrepresented in the workforce. This represents an underutilized pool of talent, and limits diversity within an organization.
    • Gender Diversity is a strength - studies show that diverse workforces support the retainment of talent and employee motivation, and foster creativity and stronger financial performance.
  • Empowering women economically creates a virtuous circle - Globally the purchasing power of women is growing, and companies and investors are taking note of the opportunity in accessing this capital. Furthermore, women are investors, a growing segment of which apply gender lens to their investment strategies. Entrepreneurs who can effectively demonstrate their ability to empower women will have greater success accessing these capital sources than those who cannot.

Despite the growing consciousness of the impact and financial return for investors utilizing GLI strategies, the gender gap continues to persist across the wider investment landscape. The GIIN, whose network includes a variety of qualified gender lens investors, continues to identify new ways to help guide investors decision-making as they work to address the challenge of gender diversity.

GIIN Activities and Resources on GLI:

The GIIN has a number of resources available for impact investors and other stakeholders aiming to strengthen their GLI efforts.

In 2017 the GIIN launched the Gender Lens Investing Initiative to explore the investment opportunities and challenges in catalyzing and scaling gender lens investing. This initiative, which concluded in 2019, aimed to build a compelling case for gender lens investing, and ultimately, to increase the amount of capital deployed with a gender lens. 

During this 18-month window, the GIIN first delivered a series of educational webinars and compiled a database of GLI allocations and strategies, followed by the launch of a working group to engage members in periodic discussions and exchange best practice. Some of the outcomes of the initiative include:

  • Online GLI Resource Repository. A curated set of GLI reports and case studies to help make the business case for gender lens investing and showcase how to invest with a gender lens. View the GLI Resource Repository here >
  • GLI Case Studies. A set of case studies on how GIIN members, Glenmede and Phatisa, developed their GLI strategies. These testimonies include investments in varies asset classes and investment types (ESG investments, private equity, venture capital, etc.)
  • Navigating Impact Project Gender Lens Theme. A resource created to help investors select GLI impact strategies and adopt metrics that indicate performance toward impact goals. View the Navigating Impact Project Gender Lens Theme here >

Ongoing GLI Activities for GIIN Members:

The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), headquartered in New York, works with a global community of investors to support the growth of positive impact across all aspects of the investing ecosystem. In 2021 GIIN members have the opportunity to participate in the convenings of the Gender Lens Investing Knowledge Hub. The Gender Lens Investing (GLI) Knowledge Hub aims to transfer practitioners’ know-how and enable members to mobilize and allocate capital with a gender lens. Building directly on the findings, resources, and success of the GIIN’s GLI Initiative and Working Group, the Knowledge Hub serves and connects all GIIN members, regardless of their prior level of engagement with the GIIN’s GLI activities.

Additionally, the GIIN’s Product Development Platform, which connects fund managers who have in-development investment products with diverse sets of asset owners, organized a series of workshops showcasing products focused on GLI objectives.

Outside of these ongoing activities, the GIIN frequently organizes or participates in discussions related to gender lens investing. For the duration of 2021 the GIIN will be particularly active in GLI-related activities in the Southeast Asia region.

Sign-up to receive the IRIS+ newsletter here to learn about upcoming workshops and webinars including on gender lens investing, or reach out to us via email to the Member Engagement Team. To more deeply engage with the GIIN’s expertise on gender lens investing, consider GIIN membership


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