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!

Why?

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!

Girls – Missing and Marginalized

 As published on LinkedIn Influencers on November 17th, 2017.

I’ve been thinking a lot about girls lately, because as the lead funder and champion of last week’s SUREFIRE Girls Conference in Salt Lake City, it’s been hard not to. In particular, I’ve been thinking about the power within the younger generation; a generation emboldened by technology, striving for change, and more socially conscious than any other generation that has come before them. Today, it’s estimated that there are 1.1 billion girls in the world, and I truly believe that if we, the older generations, do everything in our power to ensure that these girls have all of the available opportunities, resources, and tools for success that we can possibly give them, these girls will change the world and change the world for the better. Last week at SUREFIRE, I saw our future leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs in action, and with these girls at the helm, the future looks bright indeed.

However, these girls can’t do it alone, and more than anything, they need mentors, role models, and champions to help them navigate this world that is frustratingly still so far away from gender parity. Which is why the focus on girls. While sociologists are only beginning to get an idea of the traits and characteristics of Generation Z, one thing is clear: this is a generation defined by culture, creativity, and storytelling. 80% of young people say that creativity is important to their daily life, and it is estimated that fully 25% of Generation Z post original video content online on a daily basis. Young people aren’t just influencing culture, they are creating it, but you would never know this from watching traditional media, especially when it comes to young girls. In particular, a new study released last week in conjunction with SUREFIRE paints a pretty bleak picture of the landscape of young girls’ representation in feature film.

Titled The Future is Female?: Examining the Prevalence and Portrayal of Girls and Teens in Popular Movies, this study is the latest research to come from the incomparable Dr. Stacy Smith and her research team at the Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative*, and it is the first study of its kind to look specifically at the portrayal of young girls on film. When I invited Dr. Smith to speak at the SUREFIRE Conference, she had the brilliant idea to conduct this study and premiere it live at at the event. It was incredibly powerful to watch the 150+ girls respond to the results. Unsurprisingly, the results are not good. It is a story about underrepresentation, misrepresentation, and in some cases, invisibility.When considering the top 900 grossing films released since 2007 (excluding 2011):

  • Just 12.5% of speaking characters were aged 6-20 when this age bracket comprises 20.4% of the US population in 2010. Only 39.7% of these characters were female.
  • 77% of these characters were white, and when looking specifically at the films released in 2015 and 2016, 89% did not depict a single African American young girl, 92.5% did not depict an Asian American young girl, and 94.5% did not depict a Latina young girl.
  • The young girls in these movies were four times as more likely than the young boys to be depicted wearing revealing attire.
  • 31.7% of young girls were shown in an academic setting, such as in a classroom or doing homework.
  • Only 8.1% of the young female characters had defined academic interests or goals, such as going to college or learning another language, and just 7.3% had stated professional aspirations.
  • See the study for more facts and insights!

These findings go on and on, with very few bright spots in terms of parity, but it should be noted that in 2016, young girls in speaking roles comprised 48.2% of all characters aged 6-20, so we will just have to wait and see if this was just a fluke or the beginning of a new chapter on gender parity among young girls and boys in film.

Regardless, not only do young girls need role models, positive role models, they need to see more of themselves and their communities up on the big screen. When Dr. Smith spoke about female characters in animated roles, she shared that their waist size is often the same size as the circumference of their upper arms. Why? Seriously, WHY? At SUREFIRE we put up stickers on the bathroom mirrors that said, “YOU ARE AWESOME.” They did not go on to say, “but only if you are white, thin, sexually provocative, and define yourself by your relationships with males.” Unfortunately, this is still the primary messaging they receive from feature films. Enough. Seriously, ENOUGH!

Young girls are consuming pop culture at an astonishing rate, but it is clear from this study that when it comes to the film industry, pop culture is failing our young girls at almost every metric. One of the most egregious examples of this is the finding that in the top 900 grossing films of the past decade, not one single film contained a speaking role for a LGBT girl. Not one. A recent study revealed that only 48% of young people in the US aged 13-20 identified as exclusively straight, and yet in the past ten years, there were only four characters in this age bracket that identified otherwise, and not one of them was a girl.

I can only hope that the incredible work that Dr. Smith and her team continue to produce year after year will bring about not just awareness, but real action to change who is featured in film. I have seen the power of young girls and I have glimpsed the potential of this power at SUREFIRE and at the Girl Up Conference in Washington, DC. I know we have at least one feature film to look forward to in the coming year, A Wrinkle in Time, directed by the incredible Ava DuVernay. In fact, Ava created a special message for our girls which we delivered following Dr. Smith’s presentation. If you do not know Ava and her work, you must. She is talented, brilliant, and a social justice warrior. And on twitter…1.25 million followers. @ava

A quick plug, because it is going to be AWESOME, note that A Wrinkle in Timecomes out March 9th, 2018, and features an incredible cast of women, including Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling, Storm Reid, and Reese Witherspoon.

Now why this story for LinkedIn? Because this is both a business issue and a social change issue. On the business side, we need to let Hollywood know that it is not ok to misrepresent our girls by using the power of our wallets. It’s easy. Simply stop buying tickets to the films that tell our girls that their only assets are their looks and their sexuality. On the social change side, this is yet another example of how females and other groups are underrepresented or misrepresented in the media and this has to change. Do you believe that it is hard to be what you cannot see? I do. So let’s all take an interest in what our films and our culture tell our girls to be.

Looking for more research on how women, girls and other underrepresented populations are represented in film and media, check out my best reports list.

*Thanks to Ann Lovell who funded this study with me.