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In 2011, while contemplating how to move money more purposefully and wondered where all the women investors were, I was fortunate to meet Jackie VanderBrug at Social Venture Institute. Thanks to Jackie’s invitation to attend Criterion Institute‘s Convergence that fall (which is hands down still THE BEST convening of people), I not only met Joy Anderson, Suzanne Biegel, Katherine Collins, Julianne Zimmerman, and countless other amazing, determined people through that community, I found a group of people from around the world, moving forward in the same direction – the movement of gender lens investing. After founding Pique Ventures in 2012, a few months after that event, I identified the work of Pique Ventures and Pique Fund as gender lens investing. It’s on our website and in our marketing materials, but I’ve never written down what gender lens investing means to us.

I recently filled out a survey from Project Sage 4.0 asking what I believe gender lens investing means (insights from the third iteration are here, if you’re curious). I’ve been part of this community and movement for a decade, I’ve invested with a gender lens and crafted definitions for others, but never put down in words what it means to┬áme and Pique Ventures.

Given the underrepresentation of women and non-binary people in positions to control and make decisions with capital, I believe gender lens investing is ensuring that everyone gets access to money, capital, and resources to be able to make choices and be agents of their own future.

This includes more equitable pay, procuring from businesses led by women and more diverse teams and ensuring people in the supply chain are paid properly, helping a diverse community invest and get hard-earned equity stakes, and championing leadership diversity.

Typical definitions of gender lens investing include phrases like “takes into consideration gender-based factors”, “gender analysis”, “to advance gender equality”, “better inform investment decisions”, “integrated into decision-making.” But what does that really mean?

Frameworks invariably capture things that could be measured (like the number of women on boards, in leadership, in the workplace, gender pay gap, share of equity) and surveyed (like workplace policies, reporting, and transparency.) But what are we analyzing? What really matters here?

You can measure and survey all sorts of things, but at the end of the day, the wide distribution of access to and ultimately control over money, capital, and resources is what matters because that means we have choices. With access to and control over money, capital, and resources we can:

  • access food, clean water, energy, and shelter,
  • connect with others – by phone, by travel, or in-person safely,
  • express ourselves through art, culture, food, dance, writing, music, and more,
  • manage risk and change,
  • start businesses,
  • take time to care for others,
  • weather the storm during a pandemic,
  • manage changes to our health,
  • leave toxic work environments, or
  • pursue other interests.

You can’t have a definition of gender lens investing that includes “gender analysis” without stating what you’re analyzing. The analysis is about access to and control over money, capital, and resources.

Investment decisions influence what businesses can start or grow, flourish or decline. The businesses that operate in a way that women and non-binary people get access to and control over money, capital, and resources (i.e. they are paid properly, they get a share of equity and profits, they get flexibility and time, they have psychological safety) are the ones that get investment under a gender lens investing strategy.

Gender lens investing might be a niche or a subset of ESG and impact investing currently, but it does shine a light on who gets access to resources, who gets to control capital – their own or on behalf of others, and who has the money and ultimately the power to make choices, manage change, and make decisions free of fear or hobbling constraints. If your investment strategy has a gender lens, I support you in taking a long, hard look at who has or is hoarding power. Feel the fear and do it anyway.

#genderlensinvesting #gendersmart #integratedinvesting #shareequity

Bonnie Foley-Wong is the founder of Pique Ventures, founding investor in Pique Fund, and author of Integrated Investing. You can also follow her on Twitter.