A Big Step Forward For Gender Lens Investing

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on July 19th, 2020.

One of the biggest buzzwords in philanthropy is impact. And it’s easy to understand why. It’s human nature to want to know that your time, work, and resources are having a positive impact on the communities you’re trying to serve. Impact based philanthropy is nothing new. However, it’s only relatively recently that this idea of impact has taken hold in the financial sector beyond a simple measure of ROI. In fact, it was only in 2007 that The Rockefeller Foundation first coined the term impact investing, wherein social and/or environmental impact was sought alongside financial return. Two years later, this idea was applied to gender, and in 2009, the term gender lens investing was officially coined.

Since then, there has been an explosion of research in this area. Last March, I published my latest top reports list, which includes robust sections on both impact and gender lens investing. Additionally, Jackie Vanderbrug and her co-editor Joseph Quinlan published Gender Lens Investing: Uncovering Opportunities for Growth, Returns, and Impactin 2016. Jackie, as well as Joy Anderson of the Criterion Institute, have both been pioneers of gender lens investing for over a decade now. I am honored to call these women friends, and I was proud to have provided early philanthropic support for their groundbreaking work.

So what exactly is gender lens investing? This term is constantly evolving due to the relative infancy of the movement, but in general, it refers to an examination of financial investments through a gender lens. Let me give you a couple of examples. Is the company/investment run by or founded by women? Does the company/investment use gender equitable practices throughout its organization? Do the products or services that are funded result in a positive impact women and girls? The list of questions goes on, but in short, what will be the impact of an investment on women?

The why of this approach is that “incorporating a gender analysis into financial analysis will lead to better outcomes. Through the creation of financial products and vehicles that reflect an understanding of the gendered nature of our world, innovations with the field of gender lens investing will create a new set of investment opportunities.” A fair criticism of this framing is that gender does not exclusively mean women, and I agree. The good news is that in the more recent past, this field is evolving to be more inclusive with acknowledgment that gender is a fluid spectrum.

I firmly believe that finance is feminism’s next frontier, meaning that if we truly want to achieve gender equity, we, royal we, need to be putting our money where our values are. It is not the point of this article to make the case for gender equality, and I firmly refer you to the aforementioned report list if you are still searching for evidence that inequality exists. Otherwise, last time I checked, there were three things we can do with our money: give it away, spend it, and invest it. To date, only a tiny sliver of investable assets are deployed with a gender lens, but that is changing, and this week, a new resource was published to make this strategy even more easily accessible.

Project Sage 3.0: Tracking Venture Capital, Private Equity, and Private Debt With a Gender Lens is a groundbreaking overview of the current landscape of gender lens private investing. It is also a review of how far the field has come since 2017 when the earlier version of the report was launched. The results are encouraging, with 138 identified funds deploying capital with a gender lens, and over $4.8 billion in total capital raised. Furthermore, only 38% of the funds in this year’s report listed North America as their target geographic location. In 2017, this number was 80%, so it’s safe to say that gender lens investing is officially going global.

The list of findings in this report goes on, but one stat in particular jumped out at me. The number of gender lens investing funds has increased by over 58% from just one year ago, and 138% from 2017. While this is good news, there is a downside to this statistic, in that many of the funds are micro-funds, meaning small, and they have incurred challenges while fundraising in the current environment. Due to the barriers to investment by institutional investors, most of these funds rely on individual investors and family offices to get them up and running. The challenges and opportunities faced by emerging managers, especially those started by women and/or people of color, will be the subject of a future post. For now, let’s just celebrate the many, many funds that are up and running and are made visible by this report. And better yet, if you have capital to put to work, let this report serve as a guide for where to look. Embedded within are people who, with our support, will become the next wave of investment leaders. Like it or not, we are a country and a culture that lifts up investment professionals for their expertise and guidance, and we would all benefit from having a more diverse set of voices.

This report happened because of the incredible and ongoing leadership of Suzanne Biegel. Suzanne is the founder of Catalyst at Large, a leading think tank in the arena of gender lens investing. She also serves as a senior advisor to the Wharton Social Impact Initiative, a cross-disciplinary research center specializing in impact investing for social good and the publisher of Project Sage. Once again, I am honored to call this woman a friend and mentor. You can learn more about Suzanne HERE, and find more of WSII’s research HERE. And huge thanks to her project partner Sandi M. Hunt and project manager Alyssa Matteucci.

Finance. Feminism’s New Frontier

As published on LinkedIn on March 8th, 2020.

Happy International Women’s Day 2020. For over 100 years, March 8th has been a designated day to call attention to Women’s Rights. For anyone who needs a refresh, this term is meant to include the “right to bodily integrity and autonomy; to be free from sexual violence; to vote; to hold public office; to enter into legal contracts; to have equal rights in family lawto work; to fair wages or equal pay; to have reproductive rights; to own propertyto education.”

In other words, Human Rights.

If you are a regular reader of my posts, you will know that my tradition every March 8th is to call attention to the research that I collect, aggregate, and share that supports ideas, strategies, policies, and practices that will help us move closer to a more gender inclusive world. This year is the biggest and boldest report list yet, and contains 650 studies, organized into 21 different categories, and spanning nearly 200 pages. Categories include agriculture, entrepreneurship, girls, leadership, investing, philanthropy, and much more. You can download that report HERE.

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A relevant question that I’m often asked is, “Jacki, why the heck do you do this?” The three page answer can be found at the opening pages of this document in the section called, “My Story”, but allow me to summarize it for you.

Over 20 years ago, when I began my journey to mobilize all my resources, including my time, treasure, and talent, towards the advancement of women and girls, I began by seeking out research, data, and an understanding that could inform how to do this. For the first few years, while still at Goldman and focused on women’s leadership and advancement, my interest was primarily on practices that improved the hiring, retention, and promotion of women professionals. While on that journey, I started to discover broader categories of research, including one of the earliest corporate produced reports that highlighted the economic impact of empowering females. Proudly, it was actually from my own firm, Goldman Sachs, and was called Women-omics: Buy the Female Economy. This groundbreaking report was written by Kathy Matsui and her team in 1999.

It was then that I began to gather and share.

My personal path led me to depart from Goldman in 2002, and for the next decade; while I began to fund women’s organizations more actively, join non-profit boards, become more active in managing our family’s philanthropic and investment assets; the gathering, or as some call it, obsessing, continued. This journey was summarized in my 17 minute TEDxWomen Talk I gave in 2012, which can be found HERE.

I also championed and co-funded my own research report, titled Women in Fund Management: A Roadmap to Critical Mass and Why It Matters, in partnership with The National Council For Research on Women where I served on the board (much love to their Executive Director at the time, Linda Basch, who remains a friend and mentor to this day). That paper sought to unpack the question of why there are so few women in decision making roles around investment capital, and to provide a list of solutions for the industry. On the back of the great financial crisis of 2008, it was what I could do to try to have a positive impact, aligning my passions for advancing women, the financial markets and systems, and the great march towards gender equality. I do believe that that paper stands the test of time and is still very relevant today. One of the things I would like to do in my next phase, which you will hear about below, is to revive and modernize its insights, and work with the financial industry more broadly to implement them.

It was around this time that I also started to hear the term gender-lens investing, which was being pioneered by two incredible women, Joy Anderson and Jackie Vanderbrug, at the Criterion Institute.

From Criterion – Since our founding in 2002, we’ve created various tools and resources focused on transforming relationships of power in finance. We connect with social change leaders across different sectors, to bring people together to reframe and demonstrate new ways to shape our financial systems.

At the time, these concepts were revolutionary, and I loved it. I immediately connected with Joy and Jackie, provided some funding for their field building work, and championed their insights and approaches. Be sure to check out their website to find some incredible resources, including one of the first guides to gender-lens investing that they created in 2012. And of course, a shout out to Jackie’s book, written in 2016. I had started to employ a gender lens around my portfolio, as well began my own angel investing in support of women entrepreneurs, which is a practice that I continue to this day with a current portfolio of 14 direct investments and multiple funds. If you want to see some of my portfolio companies you can find them here. You can also find robust sections in the current report list on women’s entrepreneurship, the state of the funding for females, impact investing, gender-impact investing, and much more.

I have written a lot about my philanthropic journey over the years, including my role and retirement as the founding President and Co-Founder of Women Moving Millions (WMM), a global community of over 300 people who have given charitable gifts of a million dollars or more for the advancement of gender equality. For over a decade, ending in 2018, my primary work in the world was to be a champion and community builder for gender-lens philanthropy. Through it all, my grounding in research was invaluable as I traveled the world, literally, giving talks and writing about the importance of gender in one’s philanthropic giving. I could not be more proud of the role WMM has, and will continue to play, in mobilizing that kind of capital. But for me, my focus has now shifted. Of course I will continue to give, but going forward, how I will spend my time and talent will be as a champion for Gender-Impact Investing. This will no longer be my side-hustle, but rather a full time commitment!


Philanthropic capital will never be enough to solve the world’s problems, especially when fighting against traditional investment capital that continues to fund businesses that create and perpetuate the problems that non-profits and governments exist to solve. Financial tools and products have been created and used, bought and sold, without enough accountability for outcomes and impact. In a world increasingly defined by inequality more generally, and income and asset inequality specifically, we simply have to do better. Our very lives depend on it. 

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Therefore, as I release this latest and final version of my BEST REPORTS, which were produced by educational institutions, foundations, think tanks, governmental organizations, and/or corporations that are primarily focused on women and girls and in honor of International Women’s Day, I once again invite you to dig in! It is incalculable how many resources from brilliant and caring people went into each and every included report.

Value it. Use it. Share it. Hold yourself and others accountable for it. 

And… partner with me to see all our financial resources as tools to express our values to help create the world we want to live in. For me that will always mean seeking justice and equity for half of the worlds population that has been left behind, left out, marginalized. The what and the how will change and evolve, but the vision remains the same. A gender inclusive, gender balanced, gender valuing world will be a better world for everyone. Promise.

Here’s to International Women’s Day 2020.

#IWD2020 #financialfeminism #genderequality #genderequity

*A shout out to my dear friend Ruth Ann Harnisch as it relates to the title of this piece. She was the first one to frame finance for me in this way. Thank you.

** And an additional shout out to my friends and family who have supported my journey to use my time, treasure, and talents to make a difference in this world. You know who you are, and I love you!

500 Reasons to Support International Women’s Day

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on March 8th, 2018.

Every March 8th, the world celebrates International Women’s Day, a celebration first held in 1909 in New York, but which was formally declared an annual international celebration by the United Nations in 1975 during the International Women’s Year. Today, March 8th is officially a public holiday in numerous countries around the world, including Cambodia, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Nepal, Mongolia, Ukraine, and Belarus, and there are events scheduled to mark this occasion in nearly every country across the globe. International Women’s Day is both a celebration of the accomplishments of women worldwide, and a call to action for gender equality and world peace, and I hope you all join me today in celebrating the incredible women in your life.

Every year, the United Nations picks a theme for the celebrations, and this year’s theme for International Women’s Day is Time is Now. I can’t think of a better mantra coming off of the year we’ve just had. Incredible strides have been made, yes, but we still have so much farther to go. Gender inequality is not yesterday’s business, it is today’s. The Time is Now. This past year was, for me, the year that moments became movements, and movements are about people moving together towards a better future.

So what makes people move, individually and collectively? Many things, including personal experiences, values, stories of others, and yes, data. Prior to my extensive work in philanthropy, I worked in the finance industry as a trader, and I relied on numbers, statistics, and data to inform my decisions and my actions. As I transitioned out of the financial sector and into the philanthropic space, I brought this mindset with me. Though I personally did not need evidence to prove what I know to be true; that a more gender balanced and inclusive world will be a better world for all, when I truly dug into the research, I learned the depth of the need, the depth of the inequities, the depth of the opportunities, and the depth of proven interventions in need of resources. A road-map for positive change is in the research. It is not hypothetical, it is real. So not only did I search out, collect, and aggregate research and studies, but I shared them. Last year, in honour of International’s Women’s Day 2017, I published the Top 400 Reports on Women and Girls. 

The response to this publication was fantastic, and over this past year it has been an invaluable resource on more occasions than I can count. However, it quickly became clear that 400 reports, as high a number as that may seem, did not nearly encompass the scope of the research available. I continued to collect and gather research, studies, and reports, and before I knew it, that list had grown to 500 reports across 20 different categories, including Arts, Entertainment, Film & Media, Impact Investing with a Gender Lens, Philanthropy, Violence Against Women & Trafficking, Entrepreneurship, and Political Representation. There’s even a section for Masculinity and Engaging Men in Gender Equality.

I cannot promise that this list will be updated and republished every March 8th to celebrate International Women’s Day, but I’m hoping it will, so please send me any missed or new reports for inclusion in future editions to @researchonwomen and #researchonWandG on twitter, or post the link below.

Happy International Women’s Day!