WTF? Invest in Women and BIPOC Founders, now.

A cartoon of a man sitting a top a huge mountain of Cheerios, while two women look at their three little Cheerios. One woman is looking at the man with the thought bubble "WTF?"
Original Cartoon by Liza Donnelly

As published on LinkedIn on June 15th, 2021.

Welcome to SheInvests Newsletter #10.

WTF? In our family it means, what the fudge? That said, the other meaning is appropriate too. Really appropriate. The above drawing, courtesy of my ongoing collaboration with the incredible Liza Donnelly, shows the percentage of venture capital dollars, represented by Cheerios, going to male founders versus female founders. I wrote about these numbers and what it means in great detail in SheInvests #3, the now infamous Cheerios piece. This month, I asked Liza to draw what I talked about in that piece, and with your help, we want to make this image ubiquitous. The image above represents the gross inequity of capital flowing to women, especially women of color, and it is time that we fully acknowledge the far-ranging effects of biased capital, and more importantly, do something about it.

The ‘something’ I am specifically championing is to invest in early-stage private equity funds started by women and BIPOC* founders. And if you are reading this and are thinking, “This article is not for me because I don’t have enough money to invest in funds”, I urge you to keep reading. Funds are successful because the companies they invest in are successful, and that happens when we purchase or advocate for the purchase of the products and services of the funded companies. This means we all have a role to play in democratizing access to capital. We all have the power, through our investing, spending, giving, and advocacy, to shift the financial and economic outcomes for ourselves and for others. In fact, that is what we are doing all day, every day, without even knowing it.

If you already read the Cheerios article, thank you. But if you haven’t, let me briefly catch you up. That newsletter was inspired by the latest data that showed that the most women founders have ever received in a given year was just 2.8% of all venture capital dollars. For Black and Latina founders, that percentage was 0.2%. Put another way, male founders received 97.2% of venture capital dollars. It has been argued that women are less likely to start the types of businesses that attract VC capital, blah blah blah… But even if that is partially true, it is not 97.2% true. Furthermore, as an active angel investor myself, as well as an active early-stage fund investor, I know that the deal flow is robust from women and BIPOC founders. It just is.

A photo of a pile of Cheerios on a counter. Three Cheerios are separated for women, a small pile of crumbs is separated for WOC, and the rest are for men.

This is all incredibly important, because when businesses receive an influx of capital, they generally hire people, often including equity as part of the compensation. This grows the wealth of not only the founders, but those they hire as well. And given that Black and brown founders are more likely to hire Black and brown employees, that wealth is passed on. It is the wealth effect that has served white men forever. But to change the output, you need to change the input. Of course, this is the point in the paragraph where something in me wants to type – yes there are wonderful white men who get money and instinctively care about diversifying their employee base and their board, but the numbers also say that most do not. In this world we live in, we give way too much credit for good intentions, especially as it relates to diversity and inclusion. That’s why I am advocating for following the money trail to better understand commitment to values, not just words.

Another highlight from my Cheerios piece that is worth pulling in here are the numbers related to who makes the decisions regarding where those VC dollars go:

  • 5.6% of all VC firms in the US are women-led, and only 2.1% of VC firms are founded by a woman of color.
  • 4.9% of all VC partners in the US are women, and only 2.4% of all VC partners are Founding female partners.
  • 73% of all women-led VC firms were founded in the last 5 years (since 2015).
  • 23% of women-led firms are currently raising their first fund, and 44% are deploying Fund I.
  • 90% of all women-led funds are considered emerging managers.

Why does this matter SO SO SO much? Because people who share demographics in common, including gender, race, ethnicity, etc., are more likely to invest in people who share those same demographics. If we want to broaden who gets the capital, we simply have to broaden who makes the decisions about where that capital goes. For example, do you watch Shark Tank? I do, a lot, and I both love it and absolutely hate it for a lot of reasons that could probably fill a whole other newsletter. But what I specifically want to note is how often the Sharks opt-in, or opt-out, because the businesses are “not in their wheelhouse”, or because they “cannot relate to the business as a ___”. I admit I do not know the actual statistics from the show, but I can guarantee the women sharks are way more likely to fund the women-founded businesses, and vice versa. Additionally, I’m willing to bet that the Black sharks are more likely to fund the Black founders, etc. If someone has data on this, please share. But regardless, if you assume that human nature is human nature, then in order to change who gets the money, you need to change who is allocating it.

This has been my work (with help!) for the past several months; to identify early-stage funds founded by managers (General Partners / GPs) who are women and people of color, with an emphasis on identifying Black women GPs. I believe that as an investor, and a white woman with capital who wants to align my money with a gender and racial impact lens, funding these Black and brown women is the single, most impactful interventions/investments I can make. Let me explain further, building on the above, after giving you a few more statistics.

In this recent (and fantastic!) article by Stephanie Cohn Rupp of Veris Wealth Partners, she cites these statistics as it relates to the financial health of Black American families:

  • Research from the Federal Reserve Bank at St. Louis showed that between 1992 and 2016 college-educated white Americans saw their wealth increase by 96% while college-educated Black Americans saw their wealth fall by 10%.
  • The Brookings Institute found that the net worth of a typical white family in the United States is 10 times greater than the average net worth of a Black family.
  • Only 44% of Black households own their homes compared to 73.7% of white families.

We all need to care about this. Recognizing that people of a certain demographic, in this case, Black Americans, are systematically financially disadvantaged should not immediately result in the “and what about”s? Yes, we also need to care about improving the well-being of all financially disadvantaged people, but we can also focus on one demographic in terms of interventions and solutions. I simply do not believe in a zero-sum game and neither should you. However, just take a moment to notice how often, especially in today’s media, we are being sold this belief. Don’t believe it. If we want to improve the stats above and close the gap by bringing the wellbeing of all Black Americans up, one powerful strategy is to invest in Black Fund Managers, who in turn invest in Black founders, who in turn hire Black employees, which improves the economic well being of Black families, Black communities, and so on.

In-game theory and economic theory, a zero-sum game is a mathematical representation of a situation in which an advantage that is won by one of two sides is lost by the other. If the total gains of the participants are added up, and the total losses are subtracted, they will sum to zero.

Sidebar: I have this habit of seeding future articles in current ones, so let me plant this seed. Philanthropy and charitable dollars, even when combined with progressive policies, will never be enough to bring low-income, low wealth people into a place where they have the conditions to flourish. We all know this, and yet we continue to act like it will. We place too much hope in philanthropy, and I believe wealthy white women do this the most. We do it by focussing the vast majority of our time and money on charitable versus non-charitable activities. I certainly did this for years, which is why now, I am shifting so much attention to aligning my investment capital with my values. It is also why I wrote this piece about Melinda French Gates, Laurene Powell Jobs, and MacKenzie Scott. As I stated at the end of that newsletter, if and when women of the world align their VAST financial and investment resources with the goal of advancing gender and racial equity, things would change so fast our heads would spin. 

Cartoon drawings of Melinda French Gates, Laurene Powell Jobs, and MacKenzie Scott
Original Drawing by Liza Donnelly for SheInvests

But back to the stats and my theory of change for investing in Black and brown women GPs. This is, after all, the SheINVESTS newsletter. So let’s also take a minute to look at this from an investment perspective. When it comes to my own personal investment philosophy, in addition to always thinking about the good my money can do (I am, after all, an impact-driven investor), I also put my investment dollars to work in opportunities that I believe can generate substantial returns. Not because I’m necessarily determined to add to my wealth with these investments (although if that’s one of your goals, that’s awesome too!), but for the following reasons:

  1. Impact will be created at scale when solutions work at scale. Which means that an impact-focused company, like HelloAlice, one of my investments that also happens to be tackling racial disparities in business, will be most effective when it is most successful. And the byproduct of successful businesses (for investors) is a nice return. And, P.S. HelloAlice, whose cofounder Carolyn Rodz is Latina, just raised $21 million in a Series B!
  2. Those nice returns allow me to amplify my impact. When my investments are successful, that increases the amount of capital I can wield for good, whether it’s through philanthropy or more impact investments.

So with that investment philosophy in mind, let’s get back to the topic at hand – investing in Black women. As Gayle Jennings O’Byrne, one of the fund managers I’ve recently invested in (more about Gayle and the WOCstar fund below!) often says, investing in women of color provides “the biggest arbitrage opportunity in venture investing.” Not only do companies led by diverse teams outperform when it comes to higher returns (30% higher by some estimates, in fact), but they are also best positioned to capitalize on changing trends and the growing purchasing power of both women and communities of color. The spending power of multicultural communities is already $3.9T, and is growing rapidly as multicultural populations shift toward the majority. Not to mention the fact that women control 85% of consumer spending. Investors who fail to recognize the importance of these trends are not only missing out on a massive economic opportunity, but an impact one as well.

Furthermore, investing in black women is good business for everyone. A recent reportby Goldman Sachs found that closing the earnings gap for Black women could create up to 1.7 million jobs and raise the annual GDP by $450B. Not to mention all of the other associated benefits that come from economic equity more broadly, including clean energy, better health outcomes, better access to education. Goldman felt so strongly that they created their One Million Black Women Initiative “which will commit $10 billion in direct investment capital and $100 million in philanthropic support to address the dual disproportionate gender and racial biases that Black women have faced for generations which have only been exacerbated by the pandemic”. The bottom line is that investing in Black women represents a massive opportunity to generate BOTH impact and alpha.

As I’ve mentioned in recent newsletters, over the past few months I have been working with Rose Maizner to find and vet funds led by women and women of color. So far, we have made investments in two outstanding funds: the WOCstar Fund led by Gayle and Pialy Aditya, and The 22 Fund led by Tracy Gray. We decided to invest in these funds for a myriad of reasons and one of the challenges we are trying to solve is how to share due diligence efforts to make investing in funds easier. One thing we know for sure, these two women are amazing.

A close of headshot photo of Gayle Jennings O'ByrneWith an impressive background as a tech investor, entrepreneur, and former finance executive, Gayle (pictured to the right) has more than 20 years of experience investing in and supporting the women of color tech ecosystem. During her 17 year tenure with JPMorgan, she had the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the space via co-investment, as well as build up an impressive bench of skills that have served her well as an investor, including deep experience with mergers and acquisitions, due diligence, valuation, and contract negotiations.

Close up photo of Tracy GrayAnd then there’s Tracy (pictured to the left), who is an actual rocket scientist, an impact and cleantech/environmental justice investor, and a long-time champion of investing in overlooked and underestimated teams and technologies. She’s also an expert in international business and economic development policy, and, as a Senior Advisor to the Mayor, she helped to lead the City of Los Angeles’s economic recovery efforts post-Recession by creating a widely respected and replicated plan rooted in supporting manufacturing and export-oriented local businesses.

In short, Tracy and Gayle bring decades of experience to the table, and have crafted thoughtful, meaningful investment theses that reflect their unique domain expertise. They both have countless skills t

hat they have developed over the years, all of which are critical to helping founders to not just successfully scale, but to create as much impact and value as possible along the way. And, in addition to the fact that they are both incredibly qualified and experienced fund managers, they have also been leading voices in the effort to challenge and redesign the systems that have perpetuated such staggering inequality when it comes to the allocation of capital, whether it’s helping us to understand the complicity of foundations in widening the wealth gap, or underscoring the importance of investing in Black investors. As Tracy was recently told by a potential institutional investor, she hasn’t spent the past few years just fundraising. She’s spent them educating. Educating investors about the opportunity. About what is really risk and what is actually just bias or assumption. About understanding the difference between impact-washing and lip service and actually championing–and funding–the women who are paving the way towards a more equitable investment landscape.

This Thursday, June 17th, I will be hosting a LinkedIn Live with Tracy and Gayle, where we will be talking about this theory of change and the importance of investing with an intersectional gender lens. We will be discussing how catalyzing capital toward diverse fund managers creates immense social and economic impact, as well as how these opportunities have been shown to generate outstanding financial returns, often outperforming others in their asset class. I hope you will join us at 12PM ET on Thursday, as I know it will be an incredible and illuminating conversation. AND, it will be my very FIRST LinkedIn Live event! If you click through here, you can push the ‘REMIND ME’ button and you will receive a notification when the event goes live.

A promotional poster for the event featuring headshots of Jacki, Gayle, and Tracy

In the past several years, there has been an unprecedented reckoning around gender and racial justice in the United States and the world at large. And yet, even with companies and individuals paying tremendous amounts of lip service to these movements, when it comes to the world of finance, very little has changed, or in some cases, has gotten worse. But that can change, especially when it comes to investment dollars.

So I invite you to take another look at the image at the top of this article. That image should offend you. Well, actually, it should enrage you, but instead of getting angry, let’s just fix this. Because let’s be absolutely clear. We can fix this. Right now. Folks, this is not a zero-sum game world we are living in. I do not believe that, and neither should you.

———————

This article could be so much longer if I more fully referenced all the people and resources I want to, but below are some links to go deeper.

  • Tracy wrote a fantastic article for the Stanford Social Innovation Review, that outlines clear action steps for how to support diverse fund managers.
  • GenderSmart recently published a terrific guide, full of tools and resources, for investors looking to support first-time and diverse fund managers. This is a tool you can use, and also give to your investment advisor!
  • The Gender Smart community in partnership with Wharton created Project Sage which tracks Venture Capital, Private Equity, and Private Debt with a Gender Lens. This document contains lists of funds in all these categories!!! Truly a spectacular resource for anyone looking to invest.
  • My racial equity piece (SheInvests #2) has dozens of resources related to investing with a racial lens. I pulled most of them from the GenderSmart community. Thank you!
  • A great article by Stephanie Cohn Rupp of Veris Wealth Partners titled “There is a Strong Business Case for Racial Equity, But Investors Must Look Beyond the Data”
  • As always, my 650 top reports list to support Gender Lens Investing, Giving, and Action. There is not only SO MUCH data embedded in all of these studies but so many strategies as well.
  • Just released research stating that “the U.S. economy lost out on more than $507 billion in economic productivity as the attainment gap between Black and white women has widened since 1960, according to new analysis from S&P Global (NYSE: SPGI)”.

Please feel free to post other resources in the comment section.

*BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

If you have been forwarded this newsletter please subscribe, and also follow my new company, ShePlace by clicking here.

Melinda+Laurene+MacKenzie + We Are The Women We Have Been Waiting For

Original Drawing by Liza Donnelly for SheInvests

As published as SheInvests #9 for LinkedIn.

Since 2008, I have written about women, money, and changing the world. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Melinda French Gates is someone I have followed, written about, and in fact, met! In 2018, while serving as Board Chair of Women Moving Millions(WMM), an organization I co-founded, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hosted our member day in advance of WMM’s annual summit. It was at this event, prior to her onstage interview, that I had the opportunity to meet her and personally thank her for being such a visible and relentless champion for the advancement of women and girls. Needless to say, I was stunned, like many others it would seem, to learn last week of her divorce from her husband of 27 years.

It needs to be said upfront that I have absolutely nothing to say about their divorce. That is their private business. But I am curious about what the post-divorce Melinda French Gates will do in her public life. Specifically, what she will do with her money. With the inevitable divvying up of assets that accompanies any divorce, she will become one of the richest women in the world due to the estimated $146B of the Gates’ wealth that is to be divided up. So questions I have include, how will she continue to use her wealth, her voice, and her platform for good? She has long been called the most powerful woman in philanthropy, but might she soon be called the most powerful woman in investing as well? Furthermore, who are the other mega billionaire women who already are, or might become, the most powerful women in investing? This is, after all, the SheInvests Newsletter.

I don’t generally spend time speculating about people’s private lives, but I do spend time reading about people’s public lives. Specifically, I have been tracking the public lives of not only Melinda French Gates, but also Laurene Powell Jobs, and more recently, MacKenzie Scott as well. And this fantastic article written by Kara Swisher in the fall of 2020, provocatively titled “Move aside Mr. Trump: These women have more money and better ideas”, got me thinking about these three women together. The article was prompted by a Twitter attack directed at Ms. Powell Jobs, but the article was actually about what these women are doing with their wealth. And it ended with this: “So, my advice to Trump on facing powerful women like these? Tweet all you like, but you might want to get out of the way.” Get out of the way indeed.

When it comes to women and wealth, you could say that I have always been fascinated by rich and powerful woman. I did, after all, grow up watching Dallas and Dynasty. I also grew up watching the TV show Wonder Woman with Lynda Carter. Women, money, super powers. You get the idea. Although I studied finance in college, it was not until I landed at Goldman Sachs in 1988 that I was actually surrounded by real life rich and powerful people. And, big surprise, they were almost all men; men who became rich and powerful by mastering the world of finance. I was determined to become one of them, and I did. I made partner in 1996, the youngest woman and first female trader to do so, but even so, something always felt, well, off.

It was not until 2009, when I attended the celebration event for the Women Moving Millions Campaign, that I was once again surrounded by so many rich and powerful people. And this time, they were all women. Over 100 women, each having committed a million dollars or more to women and girls causes and organizations. Although it felt strange, uncomfortable in a “how in the heck did a girl from small town Canada end up here?” kind of uncomfortable, it also felt good, powerful, historic. And so began my leadership role with WMM and my journey into the worlds of so many ultra-high-net-worth women.

Every time a new member joined WMM, they had to fill out a form about themselves and their giving. And I loved reading their profiles, because I loved getting to know them. Of course, each woman came with her own story of how she got the money she had to give, but what was important was what she was doing with it, and their stories were amazing and continuously inspired me to do more. That is the power that comes with community. Over the years, I started paying attention to and collecting the lists of millionaire and billionaire women, hoping that someday, some of them, many of them, all of them, would join WMM as well. Despite meeting both Ms. French Gates and Ms. Powell Jobs, they were not members during my tenure, but together with Ms. Scott, they have most certainly given not only millions, but billions of dollars to organizations that primarily serve women and girls. And I thank them all.

So who are these three women? What do we know through what they have told us of how they are using their vast financial resources for good? Furthermore, where do they sit on the scale of visibility around what they do? Are they choosing to be a public figure, and if so, what are they saying about what is important to them? And finally, are they explicitly identifying as champions for women and girls and champions for gender equity? SheInvests would love to know.

Let’s start with Ms. French Gates. A graduate of Duke University, French Gates worked for Microsoft for nearly a decade, eventually leaving in 1996. In 2000, she co-founded The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with her husband, now the world’s largest private charitable organization with about $37 billion in assets. She currently serves as the Foundation’s co-chair, and in 2019, she released her first book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World. For years, she has been an outspoken and public advocate of gender equity, and to date has amassed a Twitter following of 2.5 million. She writes regularly on platforms like this one, LinkedIn, and has been interviewed more times than I can count. She has also pushed the conversation about the wellbeing of women and girls in to spaces primarily inhabited by rich and powerful male leaders, which I would put on a list of her major accomplishments. In Gloria Steinem’s famous words, “when humans are ranked instead of linked everyone loses”, so let’s just agree that it is fair to say that few women have done more to advance gender equity in the philanthropic context than Melinda French Gates. Yes it is about the money, but she also fully leaned into her leadership, which includes using her voice and her influence to champion for what she believes to be true. It all matters.

What is also public record is that in 2015, she founded Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company that uses both philanthropic and investment capital to advance social progress in the U.S. According to their website, Pivotal Ventures takes two approaches to investing: 1) Seeding innovation by investing in early stage companies and funds, and 2) Advancing the field by building capacity and collaboration amongst leaders, stakeholders, and ecosystems. Also of note is the fact that Pivotal’s website states that this is a company founded by Melinda French Gates, not Melinda Gates. As far as I can tell, it was never just Melinda Gates. Finally, according to the publicly available information that I could find, Pivotal has so far invested in four companies, four funds, and made contributions to a handful of nonprofits. This is almost certainly not the full scope of their investment activities, but it is all that I could squeeze out of the Internet, as I am not, after all, an investigative journalist. More personally, Pivotal has come up many times in funding conversations with both start-ups and female founded funds that I have talked to in terms of potential funders, and I am pretty sure we are co-invested in at least one company.When I jumped over to check their profile on LinkedIn, it shows 94 employees, which also indicates a lot more activity.

Also, very notably, in October 2019, Ms. French Gates created a $1B pledge to expand women and girls’ power and influence in the United States, most of which will be allocated through Pivotal. As part of this pledge, she has already launched the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge, a $40M donation that will go towards three yet-to-be-announced nonprofit organizations that are advancing equity. Interesting, this initiative is also supported by MacKenzie Scott and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies (#sisteringup). Ms. French Gates has also founded the GET Cities Initiative, which is focusing on accelerating the representation and leadership of women in tech through the development of “inclusive tech hubs” across the U.S., starting with Chicago and D.C. If I were the praying type, and I am, my hope is that Salt Lake City might one day be added to the list. If it happens, I am all in! Pivotal is leading both of these initiatives, and will be responsible for deploying all associated grants and investments.

Melinda French Gates has long been a powerful advocate for equity, and with this pledge, she has made it abundantly clear that she means to continue to use her considerable wealth not just to marginally improve the existing landscape for women and girls, but to change that landscape completely. Now that’s a goal I can get behind! However, it is interesting to note that, at least to date, the capital she has put towards this remarkable vision has seemingly been largely deployed through philanthropic grants. It remains to be seen how much of the balance of her pledge will end up as investments versus grants, but my hope is that it will be a lot, and that it will be made public. What I know for sure is that potential investors always ask “who else has committed?” and thus to know that Pivotal is on the cap table is huge. So huge.

Now, on to Laurene Powell Jobs. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton, and Stanford, Powell Jobs previously worked at both Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs, as well as founded the health food company Terravera in the early 90s. In 1997, she founded College Track, a nonprofit organization dedicated to giving low-income students the opportunity to attend post-secondary education.

In 2004, Powell Jobs founded the Emerson Collective, named after writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, a for-profit corporation focused on education, immigration reform, the environment, media and journalism, and health. I love the last few lines of her letter on their corporate website:

Our basic belief, as Emerson taught, is that we are doubly obligated: we must rely on ourselves and we must rely on each other. By helping individuals to achieve their dreams, we unleash the full force of the world’s most powerful resource: human potential.”

Powell Jobs explicitly states that she deploys both charitable and non-charitable capital, similar to Pivotal. Emerson’s website lists many incredible organizations, both for and non-profit, as well as numerous initiatives, many of which I have supported. Albeit at a significantly lower level. My guess is that there is a heck of a lot more going on behind the scenes at Emerson, judging by the fact that the About Us page features at least 150 staff members by my quick count. There are also a handful of other investments by Powell Jobs/Emerson that are publicly known, including a minority stake in the parent company for the MBA’s Washington Wizards and the NHL’s Washington Capitals, as well as a stake in several media outlets, including a majority stake of the Atlantic Magazine, which I happen to adore. Emerson is quickly becoming a force in media investing in particular, which seems to be what agitated Trump and lead to his nasty tweet.

Since I always see things through a gender-lens, it is noteworthy for me that unlike Ms. French Gates, who has been extremely vocal and articulate about the need to focus on gender equity, Ms. Powell Jobs has not been. That said, Emerson does fund in the areas of equity and justice, which of course is likely inclusive of gender related inequalities, but this focus is not explicit. Many articles talk about her tireless efforts to champion social justice organizations and leaders, and again, I thank her!

Powell Jobs’ estimated net worth is around $20B, according to Google, and she is also on Twitter with a following of about 76.5 thousand. She regular tweets and retweets with a focus on climate change, social justice, her sports teams, and more.

Finally, MacKenzie Scott, novelist, and the most recent entry in the category of women mega-donors. It is estimated that her current net worth is over $60B, having risen from $38B at the time of her divorce due to Amazon’s rising stock as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, making her the third wealthiest woman in the world. Scott made headlines in 2020 for quickly dispersing billions of dollars, almost $6 billion, to over 500 non-profit organizations, and she apparently did so without the endless process and red tape that is so often associated with major gift giving. That absolutely deserves a woo hoo times about one hundred!! Furthermore, in December 2020 alone, she gave surprise gifts totaling $410 million to historically black colleges and universities. Surprise gifts! Read this article about the impact, it might make you cry. It certainly made me cry.

In self published Medium posts in July and December of 2020, Scott goes into some detail about the issue areas she has funded and how much in each. Furthermore, she lists the organizations that received grants. Hundreds of them. A quick scan makes it incredibly clear that she is aligning the grants to the core belief that “there’s no question in my mind that anyone’s personal wealth is the product of a collective effort, and of social structures which present opportunities to some people, and obstacles to countless others.” Are you kidding me right now Ms. Scott? Heck the heck yes! She goes on to say that “economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty.” Funding with an explicit gender lens? Check.

It has been estimated that about $1B of her most recent gifts, or about 17% of the grant dollars, were earmarked specifically for women and girls, but as I have learned, while numbers like this are important, they really don’t tell the full story. Of all her listed categories, racial equity and economic mobility are the biggest recipients, but so is gender equity explicitly, which says to me that she is using an intersectional racial/gender lens. From her own words, it is clear that she sees how race, class, and gender create “overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” As for staff to help her do all of this? None that I could find but they answer has to be yes. I am not even sure she is doing it through a family foundation. It’s not surprising that it is being said that “Scott has the potential to join a small handful of funders who’ve reshaped the philanthropic landscape in the past half-century.” Again, linked and not ranked, but awesome. Simply amazing. On to what do we know about her interest in investing some of those billions with the same set of values?

I was unable to find any information about Scott’s non-charitable financial activities. I can only hope that if and when she does turn her attention to the good she might do with her investment capital, she brings the same brand of revolutionary thinking that she’s brought to her philanthropy. Oh the difference she could make, and make quickly! Project Sage, a project within the Wharton Social Impact Initiative and led by a global leader in gender-smart investing, Suzanne Biegel, has already done much the leg work in identifying strategies and funds. All that is needed is the capital. And if you care about investing for racial inclusion, they have done that work too, which I highlighted in SheInvests Newsletter #2.

As for her public profile, Ms. Scott has amassed a following of over 147.5K on Twitter, despite following no one and sending a grand total of three tweets. Clearly people are interested in her activities, myself included, and it is interesting to see how she is controlling her own narrative. Instead of participating in a lot of interviews, she’s writing about herself through Medium when she has something to share, amassing 12,000 followers on that platform along the way. My guess is that number is going to explode over time. She also publicly joined the Giving Pledge, declaring that, “In addition to whatever assets life has nurtured in me, I have a disproportionate amount of money to share. My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take time and effort and care. But I won’t wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty.” Again, heck yes! I am sure everyone reading this will join me in saying we anxiously await more from you Ms. Scott. In your own words.

French Gates, Powell Jobs, and Scott are only three American women billionaires. As of 2020, there were 614 billionaires in the United States, and 13.5% of them are women. Unsurprisingly, the majority of these women are also white, with precious few billionaire women of color. It is worth noting that in 2021, Whitney Wolfe Herd made headlines when she became the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire at the age of 31. I look forward to writing about Ms. Wolfe Herd, particularly because she is absolutely embracing investing as something that she not only does, but wants to support other women in doing. In fact, I attended a very special gathering, pre-pandemic, where she brought together investors, fund managers, successful entrepreneurs, and emerging ones for a weekend of getting to know each other, and it was incredible. It was there that I met Natalie Egan (she/her) the founder of Translator Inc., and subsequently invested $100,000 in her company. Translator Inc. produces diversity, equity and inclusion software, and Natalie is a remarkable leader, and an openly transgender CEO who proudly shares her story While I have long shared my due diligence on start-ups with friends leading some to co-invest, this event was that at a whole other level and it inspired me beyond words. It is on my “to do” list with my new venture ShePlace to have a similar type of event, bringing together women who want to start early stage investing, with investment experts and entrepreneurs. Stay tuned, and sign-up for our newsletter to be kept in the information flow. You might say ShePlace is my version of what French Gates is doing with Pivotal and what Powell Jobs is doing at Emerson Collective. And we are just getting started. (#sisteringup)

In time, I would love to dig in and profile so many more of these ultra high net worth women. If I had the chance, I would love to ask them these questions – Tell me about yourself? What is your earliest money memory? What do you think the role of money is in the world? What is your biggest hope for what your money can do? What is your biggest fear around money? Are you an active investor? If so, tell me about it. If no, tell me about why not. Do you self-identify as a champion for and funder of the advancement of women and girls? Why or why not? And so many more. The more we talk about women and money together, the better. And these are not questions only for the ultra wealthy. They are questions we can ask ourselves, our family members, our friends. Hmm… the Jacki Zehner SheInvests Podcast? Maybe.

In the decade I spent building and leading Women Moving Millions, I was on a crusade to encourage high net worth women to not only give with a gender-lens, but to use their voice and their influence as well. When Ms. French Gates said, and said, and said, and said, that “the data is unequivocal: no matter where in the world you are born, your life will be harder if you are a girl”, she legitimized, endorsed, and supported all of us who were saying it as well. (if you are looking for that data, click here for my top reports) So again, I thank her, and thank her, and thank her. And while I can hope that all philanthropists, and yes especially women philanthropists, employ a gender lens (there is a whole section of my 650 best reports that explains the why and how of this), what I see as my role is to make visible, to share, to educate, to inspire and not to judge. If we want women to be more visible and transparent in what they are doing with their resources, it is up to us to create a safe and welcoming place for them to do so. In other words, I got your back!

Today, I am bringing all my knowledge and my passion to crusading about gender-lens investing, and I am looking for all the women and men out there who are on this journey too. I consciously made this shift because I believe wholeheartedly that we will greatly accelerate progress towards a more gender-balanced, just, and equitable world fo all when this happens at scale. Philanthropic capital is important and necessary, but it will never be enough. Investment capital, lots of it, generously and intentionally deployed, just might be, especially when combined with passionate, informed, and relentless leadership. We also need education and community. More on my “to do” list.

I have quoted this statistic many times in the past. According to the latest Global Gender Gap report from the World Economic Forum, at the current rate of progress we are still 135.6 years away from true gender equity. And if you are thinking that things are pretty good here in the United States of America, think again. The US ranks 53rd out of 153 countries. I went searching for a similar statistic as it relates to a global, or even national, racial gap report, and you will likely not be surprised when I say that I could not find one. What I did find was a new report by McKinsey and Company to add to my 650+ report listthat calls for new approaches to reduce race based inequities. Amazing and very much needed. As a woman, a white woman, what is true and authentic for me is to continue to primarily focus on gender and to champion for resources for all women+ and girls, I will also do more, so much more, to recognize and fund with a racial-equity lens and an intersectional lens. I have much to learn, that is on me, and I also appreciate all the understanding and help I am getting on this journey as well.

So to Ms. French Gates, Ms. Powell Jobs, Ms. Scott, Ms. Wolfe Herd, and all the other women billionaires, millionaires, and really everyone with investment capital to put to work, please consider this an invitation, an ask, a plea, to step into your power as investors as well as donors, and make it visible! You have the opportunity to do what no group of women in the history of the world has ever done – use your collective billions to not only fund non-profits that are working on reducing inequities and inequalities of all kinds, but to invest in people who do not have social structures working for them, and in fact are often working against them. People with hopes and dreams and great business ideas that, if successful, will address the persistent wealth gap that is at the root of economic fragility. And, if you are in the position of not having to make the maximization of financial return your number one priority in your investments, then don’t. There are now so many investment products that are being designed for impact, and not just financial return. As an example, take a look at C-Note, a company founded by Catherine Berman that helps institutions invest in under-served companies at scale. Point is, we can all make up your own rules. As investors we may be told by professionals that it should be all about making the most money on your money, but that does not make it true for you. It is not true for me. I want to be able to look in the mirror and know that my financial resources are aligned with my personal values. What we know for sure is that investment capital has the potential to create an economic wave of job and wealth creation, as well as result in new products and services that actually meet the needs of those most underrepresented and underserved. Investment Capital remains an underused tool for social change and it does not have to be.

I created SheInvests as a call to action. As a woman with money who wants to use her money, and specifically her investment capital, to make a difference, I recognized that if I struggle to do this, then likely others do as well. If I want for ideas, for opportunities, for community, for accountability, then it’s likely that others are in the same boat. I have a long way to go before I am the investor I want to be in the world, but I am on that journey and I am inviting you to be on it with me. As a former partner and managing director at Goldman Sachs, I know a lot about finance, and I know that the tools and institutions of finance is not working for most people. But I also believe that it can. Money is a tool, a resource, that can be put to use around our values and around what we want to be true in the world. And while few have billions to invest, and in fact some people reading this might not have any investment capital due to accumulated debt, I still hope that this newsletter might serve some purpose for everyone. I plan on writing about ideas, about companies, about funds, about people, and about opportunities that check the boxes of aspirational, inspirational, and down right practical, and I welcome your suggestions.

In closing, I collect quotes. I have a word doc with hundreds of them, and one of my favorites is this one.

If there ever comes a time when the women of the world come together purely and simply for the benefit of mankind, it will be a force such as the world has never known.

Okay. It’s good, but what makes it interesting is that it was a man who said it. Matthew Arnold, who lived in the 1800s and “was an English poet, sage writer, and cultural critic who worked as an inspector of schools”, wrote this for some reason I can’t find. Clearly he was way ahead of his time. Since he is long gone, I hope he won’t mind if I do a little sistering up with his beautiful quote.

If there ever comes a time when the women of the world come together and use their money with great intention for the benefit of humankind, it will be a force such as the world has never known. We are those women and that time is now.

Jacki Hoffman Zehner

The drawings and cartoons in this article have been created by Liza Donnelly for SheInvests and ShePlace. The one above first appeared in my previous SheInvests newsletter. In that article I write about sistering up. In short, it means when women come together to make each other stronger.

Sistering Up: But first, canapé anyone?

As published as SheInvests Issue #8 on LinkedIn Influencers.

We are living in a different time. At least, that’s how it feels to me. Our reality today is drastically different from a year ago, six months ago, even perhaps just a month ago. And it is human nature to just do your best to work your way through it when everything is hard, cloudy, noisy, and disorientating. In short, when things don’t feel normal. And this past year has been anything but normal. We are living through a modern pandemic that has killed over three million people and caused hundreds of millions to fall ill. It has pushed our health care systems to the brink, destroyed untold livelihoods, separated families, and isolated our precious elders from the ones they love. But all of this is not new information. We have all been living through this reality in our own way since March of last year.

But now, with vaccinations slowly on the rise and the first tentative steps towards getting back to normal slowly being taken, the question becomes, Now what? What choices will we make going forward in light of everything that has happened? How will we begin to rebuild our lives, relationships, businesses, communities, and social structures? What do we, you, me, all of us, want to build in place of the systems that the pandemic found wanting?

This was the nature of a conversation I had last summer with my dear friend Jessica Houssian, co-CEO of The Equality Fund, right when we were in the thick of it. She was telling me about her work in designing and building one of the largest sustainable feminist funds in history (one billion dollars) to support feminist movements and women’s rights organizations in the middle of a global pandemic. And in the middle of telling me all this, she paused, and then asked me if I had ever heard of the term sistering. No, I responded. Tell me more.

A candid photo of Jacki, Jessica Houssian, and Lisa Witter

It turns out that the word sistering is used primarily as a construction term, and at its most basic, it means to make stronger. Jess described it like this: when you are constructing a building and the frame or support system is proven to be not strong enough, you sister (add) additional material to make it stronger. This process is called sistering. We both agreed that not only was this term awesome, but it was also what we were doing on that phone call. We were sharing our challenges, hopes, and dreams with each other, and asking what we could do to help. We were, and still are, sistering.

Since that day, sistering has become my own personal action word, and I have since stretched it into a personal mantra that I am calling sistering up. To qualify as a good mantra, the words should be motivational, and they should inspire you to be a better version of yourself. I hope that after reading what it means to me, you might consider adopting sistering up as your own mantra as well. And I will connect this back to investing. Promise.

But first, let me explain what I mean.

The way I see it, sistering up is both a mindset and an action oriented framework. And because I am making up this new word combination, I want to take the time to fully explain it. Of course, a sister is usually defined as a woman or girl in relation to other daughters and sons of her parents, as well as close female friends or associates. And we also know that the sisterhood has been commonly used to extend beyond the familial ties to refer to women working together in support of one another. But what about sistering? Well, sistering can describe what we do to support one another. Specifically, what we do as women to make each other stronger. It involves positive action, which is where the “up” in “sistering up” comes into play. We are sistering up in acknowledgement that there are still huge inequities and power structures that exist, and which result in gender related disparities. By sistering up, we will accelerate positive change. #SisteringUp

So on to the framework. The primary idea is that when you learn about something another woman is doing, or are presented with the opportunity to help another woman, there are four buckets of what you can do: Connect, Amplify, Champion, and Partner. And when I say women, I mean all self-identifying women, because we still live in a world where women are less likely to have embedded and unearned societal support systems and networks that help them flourish, which is why this is necessary. And if you don’t agree, please see the most recent edition of the Global Gender Gap Report produced by the World Economic Forum by clicking here.

The SisteringUp Framework

Connect

Take the time to think about who you are connecting with and who you are connected to, and more importantly, to what ends? Make a conscious decision to deepen and expand your connections, especially if you notice that most of your connections are with people from the same background and demographics as you. Take the time to listen and learn about new people and organizations, and park that information somewhere in your brain. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable passing along that information yet, but just knowing about it and making the conscious decision to continue learning every day will enrich your ability to help others in countless ways.

Amplify

You’ve connected and you’ve learned. Now share that information. Sharing can mean telling someone else, buying a product or service, tweeting something out, and in general, making a conscious effort to do something. It may not seem like much, but simply sharing your knowledge, not to mention your endorsement, can do so much. I truly believe that this bucket is incredibly undervalued and under-appreciated. Who knows what outcomes can result from these small acts of amplification? It could very well be that your one tweet, or post, or like, can bridge the gap between two of your followers, who together can make magic happen.

Champion

This bucket reflects a much deeper level of engagement than simply amplifying, as this is where you meaningfully put your capital, be it financial or social, on the line. You are vouching for someone or something because you did your homework, you know the person/company/product/service, and you believe in it. To champion something takes more time and effort, and there is absolutely risk involved. You are putting your reputation behind someone/thing else, and therefore your reputation is now on the line. But the inherent possibilities are also that much more grand. Perhaps there are doors that only you specifically can open because of your lived experience, and this is where you pay that privilege forward.

Partner

This is where you go ALL IN. This is where you don’t just vouch for someone; you partner with them and throw all of your support behind them. To do this, you will have to spend a significant amount of time and energy in support of this person, cause, and/or organization, so there is a limit to how many people with whom you can fully and thoughtfully partner. Therefore, when making that choice, think about why you are doing this and what you hope to accomplish. Both your head (logical) and heart (emotional) should be fully committed, but if you had to pick one, pick heart. Every time.

I feel like I have been using this framework for a long time, but until now, I never articulated it in this way, nor did I have a name for it. But now I do. Sistering Up.

So what does this have to do with investing? A heck of a lot, actually. Let me give you some examples of how I have applied this framework around my own investing, and how you can as well.

Connect

Since I began writing the SheInvests newsletter, I have been talking to more and more women about their money stories. I often start with a question. Can you tell me your earliest memory as it relates to money? Other questions include, what is your biggest fear around money? Do you think you know what you need to know about managing your money? If not, what do you think stops you from gaining that knowledge? To connect means to talk to other people about things, so I invite you to begin to talk to your friends and family members about money.

For myself, this past year, with the help of the incredible Rose Maizner, I have connected with many women, and in particular, women of color fund managers. If you read my Cheerios post, you know why. It is simply unacceptable to me that such a small percentage of investment capital goes to these managers, and I am determined to do as much as I can to change it. My first step was connection.

Amplify

As mentioned above, amplifying can mean a lot of things, but the core idea is to learn, do, and then share. If you read a book about investing, pass it on to a friend. If you have a wonderful woman financial advisor, recommend her to someone else. If you are not feeling confident in your knowledge about money, commit to taking an online course on money fundamentals. You can invite someone to do it with you, or you can buy the course for someone else. I recommend SmartPurse, and full disclosure, I am an investor with them because I believe wholeheartedly in their mission. If you are in a position to write a check of any size to fund a great women-founded company, of course go ahead and do it, but it’s equally important to then tell your friends who might also be in a position to do so as well. And if you are not in a position to write a check, you can still amplify by letting others know that fantastic women founders and entrepreneurs in your network are looking for financial support. Be the person who makes that introduction.

I spend a lot of my time amplifying both in a very personal way, and through all of my social platforms, including this newsletter. On my website I list all of the companies I have invested in, as well as books by authors I know and respect and so much more.

Champion

Championing as it relates to investing depends a lot on how much time you spend in this area. To champion, you want to have done your research and really believe in something. People ask me for investment advice all the time, and what I always say is that I am not an investment advisor, but here is what I am doing and why. Championing, not advising. If you spend the time to identify a great company, stock, or gender lens ETF, tell your friends about it.

For me, when I invest in a start-up or a fund, I allow the founders to use my name with other investors. And this is incredibly helpful to them! It is human nature to want to know who else is ‘in’, and at times, it is that social capital that is as important as the financial capital. I also champion people and funds that I may not be invested in for one reason or another, but really believe in nevertheless.

Partner

Again, to some degree, this depends on how active of an investor you are, but partnering can mean that you go out of your way to make introductions on behalf of your investment advisor to new clients. Or perhaps you provide some amount of crowdfunding to a new company, and then take the time to share this with everyone you know because you dig them so much. The key differentiator here is the amount of time you put in, the amount of social capital you put out there, and/or a higher amount of financial capital you invest, whatever that means for you.

For me, partnering means not only investing personally, but also reaching into my network to try and bring other investors to the table. And due to the time investment required, I can only do this for a small number of companies, advisors, and/or funds. This means that I have to choose carefully when deciding to partner with someone, because I always strive to be a full partner with my support. For example, with SmartPurse, not only did I bring other investors to the table, but I also took the time to help them test and refine their revenue, build out their market strategy, and helped to bring in key advisors to fill gaps in expertise.

Sistering Up

That is the framework for how you can bring a sistering up mindset to your investments. To bring it to life even further, I am thrilled to announce recent investments into two outstanding funds, both of which focus on tech innovations being brought to market by inclusive teams, especially those being built by women of color: the WOCstar Fund, led by Gayle Jennings O’Byrne and Pialy Aditya (pictured directly below), and The 22 Fund, led by Tracy Gray (pictured in the next paragraph).

Side by side headshot photos of Gayle and Pialy

Last October, I shared (again, amplify, amplify, amplify!) a robust list of ways to invest in racial equity. But beyond sharing, I wanted to find additional opportunities for sistering up. So Rose and I dove in, learning about the many funds, leaders, resources, and tools that are available to invest in people of color. Several funds stood out to us, and I plan to make more allocations soon, but WOCstars and The 22 were two that I knew I wanted to partner with almost immediately. I believe deeply in the missions of both of these funds, I am hugely confident in the profound expertise and capabilities of the managers, and the funds’ investment themes, sectors, and stages add important diversification to my portfolio. And, as an early investor in The 22 and a top investor in WOCstars, I know that I can help bring resources to bear that, I hope, will help them to raise additional capital in an environment that notoriously undervalues and overlooks women of color fund managers. Stronger together. Sistering Up.

Close up photo of Tracy Gray

Incidentally, The 22 and WOCstars are also both part of the Ally Collaborative, a group of six venture funds that are collaborating to increase representation in funds led by diverse fund managers, and investment into diverse-led companies. While not all of the funds are women-led (five out of the six are led or co-led by women), this is a powerful example of Sistering Up. By eschewing the tired culture of competition, these funds are actively helping one another to succeed, realizing that a rising tide lifts all boats.

I will be sharing more about both of these incredible funds, as well as the Ally Collaborative, in the coming months.

So there you have it. I invite you to embrace the sistering up (#SisteringUp) framework, and when you do, please share it! Anyone who thinks that hashtags cannot create change has obviously never heard of #metoo.

I also welcome your comments, your ideas, and your commitments to do more to support each other. According to the most recent Global Gender Gap Report, it will take 135 years to achieve gender equality at the rate we are going, which is frankly about 100 years too long. And if you are a man reading this newsletter and wondering if you can join in the sistering up movement, the answer is heck yes! The more the merrier.

Love the Cartoon? Meet Liza! 

Headshot photo of Liza Donnelly

I met award-winning cartoonist and writer Liza Donnelly when we both gave a TED Talk at the 2010 Ted Women Conference. Nearly a decade later, our paths crossed again while we both were serving on the Advisory Council for the Athena Center for Leadership at Barnard College. In the process of getting to know each other and becoming friends, a collaboration was born. I am absolutely delighted to be sistering up with Liza, who will be creating an original drawing for each newsletter. We are also working on a book together on women and money, so please stay tuned for more updates on that project!

Liza has been drawing for The New Yorker Magazine for over 40 years, and she has also been a contributor for The New York Times, CNN, and CBS News, to name a few. She is the author/editor of several books, including the highly acclaimed Women on Men. Liza is also the creator and pioneer of live drawing journalism, and in recent years has covered protest marches, inaugurations, political national conventions, and entertainment award shows.

To find out more about Liza and her work, please click here. If you are on instagram you simply must follow her. @LizaDonnelly. #SisteringUp with Liza Donnelly.