As published on LinkedIn Influencers on March 8th, 2021.
Every March 8th I have a tradition. In celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD), I release my latest list of the top reports that support gender focused giving, investment, and action. More specifically, research that sheds light on gender inequities, with the hope of advancing the rights and well-being of women and girls. The first list was released in 2017, but I had been collecting this research for almost two decades by that point. Over the years, the list had grown to 400 reports, and I felt it was high time to share this information broadly. By March 8th, 2018, that list had grown to 500 reports, and a tradition was born. My hope was then and is now that these lists would be a resource for anyone and everyone. I am not at all convinced that data drives change, but I do believe that evidence and data can direct resources, mainly financial resources, towards issues, people, organizations, and strategies for change.
For IWD 2020, I published my latest list of 650 reports, and I declared the project to be finished. To be clear, I wasn’t finished with the data, but I was done with the obsessive aggregation of it. It was just too much. It felt like every single day another report would come through my inbox, and the responsibility that I felt to do something with them was getting overwhelming. That said, we, myself and Laura, kept track anyways. Old habits die hard I suppose.
In just a few short weeks that followed IWD 2020, COVID-19 brought the world to a halt and our global infrastructure to its knees. The pandemic exposed the cracks in our “systems” in ways that no one could have imagined last March 8th, and as we approach the one year anniversary of quarantines, lockdowns, and shelter in place orders, one thing is abundantly clear. COVID-19 has been absolutely devastating for far too many people, and disproportionately, far too many women, particularly women of color.
It is not surprising that many of the reports that have been published in this past year focus on these disproportionate and challenging outcomes. In fact, we had to add an entirely new section to correctly categorize them. If you have been tracking headlines, you already know about the rise of violence against women throughout the world in the wake of COVID-19. Other reports reveal the cataclysmic setbacks to women’s economic stability and employment participation. Some experts predict it will be decades before women recover financially from the events of the past year.
So here we are again with a new list; 100 reports that have come to our attention since our last release. In this document, you will find the source of the report, a brief description, and a link for further reading. This list serves as a complement to the list of 650 reports that was released a year ago.
So yes, I am continuing with my International Women’s Day tradition, and this year it is bittersweet. After years of feeling like some progress has been made, this past year has created some very big setbacks. So while I continue to declare that finance is the new frontier of feminism, which was my theme for 2020, I do so this year with an even bigger call to action. As we begin to feel safe stepping outside and returning to somewhat more normal times, let us be sure to look more intentionally for those whose lives have been deeply impacted and try to do more. Furthermore, as we start to rebuild, we need to be asking the hard questions around who is getting the resources to do that rebuilding, and whether that distribution is just and equitable.
Saying “Happy” International Women’s Day does not feel right this year, so instead I invite you to take a look at the 100 reports aggregated for you, scan the descriptions, and pick one to really look at. Really read it and let it sink it. No women or girl wants to be reduced down to a statistic, and yet that is what so often happens with these reports. The time, effort, and money that went into producing every single one of them comes with a hope that someone, somewhere, will read it and do something to help. I am hoping that you might be that someone.
For me, it was hard to pick just one report to feature for this article, but the one below was written by a person and organization that has many reports on our best of list.
“The research behind this paper examined power dynamics in the development of two fields, climate finance and gender lens investing. It provides a deeper analysis of the dynamics that have shaped the development of these fields and asks whether the fields have been disruptive enough. The thesis of this paper is that the awareness of power dynamics will lead to a more intentional design of field building efforts within gender lens investing and climate finance, thereby ensuring that these efforts are addressing and not needlessly calcifying and replicating existing dynamics and inequities in systems of finance.”
This paper was produced by the Criterion Institute, and more specifically by Joy Anderson. Joy is somewhat indescribable, but someone recently called her the oracle of finance, and I thought, Heck Yes! “Criterion is a nonprofit think tank that works with social change-makers to demystify finance and broaden their perspective on how to engage with and shift financial systems. They believe that you cannot innovate our way to a new future without addressing structural inequities in the design of any solution. And we can’t do this effectively without focusing on power: who has it, who doesn’t, and why. Our financial systems wield incredible power, yet they’re controlled by a relative few. Finance is also sustained by complex language and processes which stop those who would most benefit from understanding how they really work. We work to transform relationships of power so that more can imagine using finance as a tool for social change.” Again, HECK YES!
This paper demands your full attention, and my attempts to add additional context to what is written above have failed miserably. But the reason why I think this report is so important is that I believe our financial systems are not working for the vast majority of people. This report invites us to think about these systems as systems of power. And if we are advocates for positive change in the world, then this matters. Really matters. So thank you to Joy and all who contributed to this landmark paper.