When Prince Charles announced a $100 million fund with the aim of reaching thousands of women and girls in South Asia to provide them support in the form of education and professional opportunities in the next five years, the British Asian Trust (BAT) was tasked with playing the role of the investment banker for the project.
“The sustainable development goals endorsed by 193 member states at the United Nations cannot be achieved unless radical new approaches are developed,” Philanthropy Women quoted Prince Charles, upon unveiling the new fund last week. “I am very proud that the British Asian Trust is at the forefront of developing such innovations,” he added.
This is one of the latest examples in gender lens investing, a business trend that has been catching up at a rapid rate. After the term was coined about 2009, it became a steadily prevalent practice in the mid-2010s. The phenomenon is a sub-part of the broader “impact investing”, which signifies investments that are made into organizations or companies with the objective of generating not just a financial return, but also a quantifiable and profitable social or environmental effect.
When this kind of investment is made in women-centric organizations to benefit women whilst keeping an eye on profits, it is called gender lens investing. Such an investment can aim to improve economic opportunities for women and bring about their social wellbeing.
“Women launching and expanding ventures around the world have an estimated collective credit gap of $320 billion”
The early days of gender lens investing can be traced back to 2005, when the French money-management firm Conseil Plus Gestion created the Valeurs Feminines fund, an organization set up to invest in European businesses that were women-owned or women-led. The fund received gender lens investment strategies from the likes of Trillium Asset Management, Morgan Stanley, Root Capital, Merrill Lynch, U.S. Trust, Veris Wealth Partners, Goldman Sachs, Illuminate Ventures, Gray Matters Capital, the Calvert Foundation, and Golden Seeds.
In the current impact investing landscape, we see many examples of gender lens investment in the world. Often such investment aims to benefit women by improving their lives through products and services. A case in point is BNY Mellon Investment Management’s Dreyfus Japan Womenomics Fund, which assigns funds to companies listed in Japan that could benefit from Womenomics.
The Japanese government’s Womenomics is an enterprise that targets economic growth by raising gender equality. It aims to not only grow the participation of female labour force, but also, to ensure that 30% of leadership positions are filled by women by 2020.