The women of impact investing

Nicole Sara Sivens
March 8, 2018
4 min read
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Financial progressivism is not gender-specific - so then why are so few of the big players female? Just 7% of partners of top 100 venture capital firms are women. Likewise, retail investors are largely men. Finance seems to be a primarily male-dominated area from top to bottom, with one exception: Impact investing.

Audrey Choi, CMO/CSO at Morgan Stanley
Audrey Choi, Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Sustainability Officer at Morgan Stanley

Nancy Pfund, DBL Partners
Nancy Pfund, Founder & Managing Partner of DBL Partners

Mary Chorengel, The Rise Fund
Maya Chorengel, Partner at The Rise Fund

Jenny Abramson, Rethink Impact
Jenny Abramson, Founder & Managing Partner at Rethink Impact

Jennifer Pryce, CEO, Calvert Impact Capital
Jennifer Pryce, President and CEO, Calvert Impact Capital

Why impact investing?

Impact Investing refers to investments “made into companies with the intention to generate a measurable, beneficial, social or environmental impact alongside a financial return.” There are two primary reasons that investors choose impact investing. One, they’re conscious about how money impacts the world, and two, they want to use their dollars to support social change.

In the early days of the impact investing movement, women were arguably seen more as program beneficiaries than financial movers and shakers.

Portfolio managers and social investing specialists changed their view when they realized that focusing initiatives, like microfinance lending to women, turned out to be the most effective way to make whole communities more prosperous. This early insight quickly led to more programs targeting women, including special prizes and support networks for female entrepreneurs and the advent of gender lens investing.This investing approach creates female-centred portfolios with capital that backs women in a more systematic way.

Positive as all this is, things have moved on significantly in the world of impact investing. No longer only the beneficiaries of social finance, today women are building a complete ecosystem of social investing that has female financial power at its heart.

One recent study of high net-worth individuals revealed that 45 percent of these investors now say they’re either interested in or already allocating assets to impact investing, up from 32 percent in 2015. Impact investing has been gaining steam in the mainstream, so it’s no shock that investors at every level are seeking it out more actively – the big surprise is which investors.

Swell’s recent results from a Harris Poll study show that the respondents who hadn't yet invested in impact but plan to in the future are 45% women vs. 36% men. Of that 45% of women, more than 60% are millennial women aged 18-34.

Overwhelmingly, women are leading the charge in investing in companies that align with their values. Jackie VanderBrug, managing director at U.S. Trust, put it best when she said that this interest “is an opportunity for advisors to step in and say, ‘let’s have a conversation about how your investment portfolio can have an impact in a way that’s aligned with your values’.”

Despite the wage stagnation facts, women are wealthy, full of intention, and making moves.

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