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G7 Turns Spotlight on Women’s Empowerment

Women bear their burdens in rural Rajasthan, India, November 18, 2008 (Photo by Richard Evea) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Women bear their burdens in rural Rajasthan, India, November 18, 2008 (Photo by Richard Evea) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, June 1, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Globally, countries are losing $160 trillion in wealth because of differences in lifetime earnings between women and men. This amounts to an average of $23,620 for each person in the 141 countries studied by the World Bank Group for a new report released this week.

“The world is essentially leaving $160 trillion on the table when we neglect inequality in earnings over the lifetime between men and women,” said World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva.

“This is a stark reminder that world leaders need to act now and act decisively to invest in policies that promote more and better jobs for women and equal pay at work,” she said.

The study, “Unrealized Potential: The High Cost of Gender Inequality in Earnings,” examines the economic cost of gender inequality in lost human capital.

Its release precedes this year’s meeting of the G7, currently headed by Canada, which has committed to ensuring that gender equality and women’s empowerment are integrated across all G7 activities during its presidency.

This informal group of seven advanced economies consists of: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The European Union also attends.

As G7 president, Canada will host the G7 Summit June 8-9 at the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu in the Charlevoix region of Quebec.

Advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment is one of the five themes that will occupy G7 leaders this year, says Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“The themes we have chosen for the year will help focus our discussions on finding real, concrete solutions to promote gender equality, women’s empowerment, clean energy, and economic growth that works for everyone,” said Trudeau.

On January 23, Trudeau announced the creation of the Gender Equality Advisory Council , which will ensure that gender equality and women’s empowerment are integrated across all themes, activities and initiatives of Canada’s G7 Presidency. The Council is co-chaired by Melinda Gates and Isabelle Hudon.

The Prime Minister said, “Women’s empowerment is a key driver of economic growth that works for everyone. All of us benefit when women can participate freely, fully, and equally in our economies and society, and supporting and empowering women and girls must be at the heart of the decisions we make.”

“That is why we made gender equality and women’s empowerment a central theme of Canada’s G7 Presidency – and created the Gender Equality Advisory Council for Canada’s G7 Presidency,” Trudeau said. “Thanks to the Council, we will make sure a focus on gender equality guides the work done at the G7 Leaders’ Summit – and set a precedent for the G7 going forward.”

For the first time, the G7 engagement process included a summit of diverse feminist leaders, the W7 . In April, over 60 feminist leaders from Canada, G7 countries and around the world met in Ottawa with Trudeau and Canada’s Minister for the Status of Women.

The W7 called for a more just and equitable economy that moves away from exploitation and extractivism. Too many women around the world are facing precarious, dangerous and exploitative work situations, and the current economic model is fueling conflict and violence against women, they said.

“The greatest threats my community in Guatemala faces today are caused by extractive industries from G7 countries; and most of them are actually Canadian,” said Irma Alicia Velasquez Nimatuj, an indigenous Guatemalan journalist and anthropologist, in speaking to Prime Minister Trudeau.

In nearly every country today, women face barriers to full participation in the work force and earning as much as men. As a result, women account for only 38 percent of their country’s human capital wealth, defined as the value of the future earnings of their adult citizens – as compared with 62 percent for men, according to the World Bank report.

In low income and lower-middle income countries, women account for just a third or less of human capital wealth.

Programs and policies that make it easier for women to get to work, access basic infrastructure and financial services, and control land could help achieve gender equality in earnings, the World Bank report suggests.

“Human capital wealth accounts for two-thirds of the global changing wealth of nations, well ahead of natural and other forms of capital,” said the report’s author Quentin Wodon, World Bank Group lead economist. “Because women earn less than men, human capital wealth worldwide is about 20 percent lower than it could be.”

The losses in wealth from inequality in earnings between men and women vary by region. The largest losses – each between $40 trillion and $50 trillion – are observed in East Asia and the Pacific, North America, and Europe and Central Asia.

This is because these regions account for most of the world’s human capital wealth, but losses in other regions are also substantial.

In South Asia, losses from gender inequality are estimated at $9.1 trillion, while they are estimated at $6.7 trillion in Latin America and the Caribbean and $3.1 trillion in the Middle East and North Africa.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, the losses are estimated at $2.5 trillion. While losses in low income countries are smaller in absolute terms than in other regions, as a share of the initial endowment in human capital, the losses are larger than for the world.

The study is part of a broader research program at the World Bank that benefits from support from Government of Canada, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, and the Global Partnership for Education.

“There are estimates showing the costs and benefits of gender equality to key economic sectors and economic growth,” said World Bank Group Senior Director for Gender Caren Grown.

“By focusing on wealth,” said Grown, “this study is a unique addition to that literature since wealth, and especially human capital, is the assets base that enables countries to generate future income.”

Featured Image: This textile factory in Shtip, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, employs about 120 women, who make garments for Italian and German brands. There is still no minimum wage in the FYRM textile industry. December 7, 2016 (Photo by Rena Effendi / UN Women Europe and Central Asia) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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Germany Joins Asian Bank for Climate Action

BankMerkelHandshake1

By Sunny Lewis                                                                         Follow us at: @Maximpactdotcom

FRANKFURT, Germany, May 3, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The Government of Germany and the Asian Development Bank Monday announced their intention to launch an Asia Climate Finance Facility (ACliFF) in 2017. The announcement came on the first day of the ADB’s 49th Annual Meeting, the first ever held in Germany, the bank’s biggest European shareholder.

The facility will leverage public and private sector investment in climate change mitigation and adaptation in support of the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, reached last December and now signed by more than 175 countries.

The facility will help developing countries in Asia and the Pacific region through new and innovative co-financing measures, including guarantees and climate risk insurance, which support country-led implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as for investment in resilience.

In their “Frankfurt Declaration,” the bank and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development agreed to join forces for progress on climate action and technical and vocational education and training for the economic empowerment of women.

Officials said this effort is in the spirit of the women’s economic empowerment initiative launched by Germany during the German G7 presidency last year. Based in Manila, ADB is one of the largest multilateral donors for vocational training in developing Asia. Among the activities planned for the coming year is a joint regional vocational training conference.

As part of the annual meeting, the bank and CNBC presented best transaction awards for 2015 to two companies – Credo LLC, a microfinance organization based in the Republic of Georgia received the award for Best Financial Sector Transaction, and Mountain Hazelnuts, an agribusiness based in Bhutan, was recognized for the Best Corporate Finance Transaction.

The two were honored with the inaugural ADB Private Sector-CNBC Awards for their “impactful private sector solutions to key development challenges.”

“These awards demonstrate the critical role of the private sector in spurring economic transformation, job creation, and innovation across Asia,” said PSOD Deputy Director General Mike Barrow.

“The private sector is a core provider of solutions to the most urgent development challenges facing Asia and the Pacific,” said Barrow. “Today’s award winners are exemplars of how the private sector can be at the forefront of inclusive growth.”

Chair of the Board of Governors Hans-Joachim Fuchtel, ADB President Takehiko Nakao, Frankfurt Mayor Peter Feldmann, and Goethe University's Prof. Manfred Schubert-Zsilavecz plant a tree on the campus of the Goethe University of Frankfurt, April 30, 2016. (Photo courtesy ADB)

Chair of the Board of Governors Hans-Joachim Fuchtel, ADB President Takehiko Nakao, Frankfurt Mayor Peter Feldmann, and Goethe University’s Prof. Manfred Schubert-Zsilavecz plant a tree on the campus of the Goethe University of Frankfurt, April 30, 2016. (Photo courtesy ADB)

Majority owned by Access Microfinance Holding, Credo works to expand banking services for small businesses and farming households and improve delivery of financial services to underserved regions. ADB signed an agreement with Credo for a four-year $23 million loan in 2015 and a technical assistance grant of $300,000 to support its efforts in developing full retail services and expanding its operational systems as it transitions to becoming a bank.

Mountain Hazelnuts is developing an inclusive and environmentally sustainable hazelnut value chain in Bhutan. With assistance from ADB, Mountain Hazelnuts is training thousands of farmers, including women, to use farm practices that will help minimize crop losses from climate change. ADB approved $3 million in equity in 2015 and is also providing $1.5 million in technical assistance for the company.

The winners were chosen by an independent panel of five judges selected from ADB’s Independent Evaluation Department and Office of the General Counsel, as well as Credit Suisse and Commerzbank. Only transactions signed in 2015 were eligible. The judges assessed the transactions on: innovation, impact, scalability, and value addition from ADB and the financial institution or company.

The Asian Development Bank is leaving a gift for Germany – the first “Green Reading Room” at a German university.

The 67 delegates of the ADB member states jointly planted the trees for the Green Reading Room on the premises of the Goethe University of Frankfurt on April 30. The trees will eventually form a green construction that can be used as a reading room by roughly 50 students.

ADB President Takehiko Nakao said, “Sustainability is critical for all economies in Asia and in the rest of the world. The Green Reading Room will serve as a reminder of the importance of environmental sustainability for this and future generations.”

“The Green Reading Room sends out a clear message to young people, as it encourages them to help limit global warming through their own behavior,” said Hans-Joachim Fuchtel, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development and German Governor of the ADB.

“The Paris climate summit made very clear what many of us knew already: much more needs to be done to bind CO2,” said Fuchtel. “With the Green Reading Room, we are planting ideas for the future, quite literally.”

The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development plans to use the Green Reading Room as a regular venue for presentations to young scientists about latest developments in the areas of climate change and energy use.

Said Lord Mayor of the City of Frankfurt, Peter Feldmann, “For this symbolic act there is no better place than Frankfurt. Because in this green city, dynamics and sustainability as well as the belief in progress and prosperity go in line with taking care of our environment.”


 

Featured image: From left: Chair of the Board of Governors Hans-Joachim Fuchtel, ADB President Takehiko Nakao, Frankfurt Mayor Peter Feldmann, and Goethe University’s Prof. Manfred Schubert-Zsilavecz plant a tree on the campus of the Goethe University of Frankfurt, April 30, 2016. (Photo courtesy ADB)

Women Rule: Why the Future of Social, Sustainable and Impact Investing is in Female Hands

Group of female social investors

By Marta Maretich @maximpactdotcomMaximpact.com

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

Social lenders changed their view when they realized that focusing initiatives like microfinance lending on women turned out to be the most effective way to make whole communities more prosperous. This early insight quickly led to further programs targeting women, including special prizes and support networks for female entrepreneurs and the advent of gender lens investing—an approach to creating female-centred portfolios that puts capital behind women in a more systematic way.

Positive as all this was, things have moved on significantly in the world of social 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.

Women are wealthy—and socially conscious

Global wealth demographics have their part to play in this trend. Women—or at least some women—are richer now than ever before. And they’re soon to get even richer.

Taking the US as one example, women now control almost half of the estates valued over $5 million and they stand to inherit some 70% of the $41 trillion to be inherited over the next four decades in the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth the world has ever seen. By 2030, roughly two-thirds of the private wealth in the US will be held by women.

This wave of wealth is set to land in the laps of female investors who have been shown to have a more positive attitudes toward social investing than their male counterparts. Half of wealthy women in a recent survey expressed an interest in social and environmental investing while only one-third of wealthy men did. 65% of women thought social, political and environmental impacts were important, as compared to just 52% of men.

Female advisors, step up!

Surveys show that financial firms are not currently meeting the needs of this growing pool of wealthy female clients and many are taking special measures to reach them. Part of the problem is that there are still so few female advisors out there: Only three in 10 advisors are women, according to a 2013 Insured Retirement Institute study, yet 70% of women seeking advisors say they would prefer to work with a woman.

The good news is that the female advisors now at work are already a positive force for social investing. A report by the Calvert Foundation showed female advisors to be more interested in using sustainable investing funds (59%) than their male counterparts (39%). They were more likely to know about alternative investing opportunities and more likely to offer them as options to their clients, too.

More female MBAs?

Boosting the number of women in financial advisory roles could, then, be a way of extending the reach of social investing to more women. But where will they come from?

In theory, a new generation of female advisors is currently learning its trade in business schools around the world. Yet due to what’s often condemned as a male-dominated culture, many MBA programs have poor track records of enrolling and retaining female students and this has the effect of limiting the number of female graduates.

That may now be changing with more business schools making concerted efforts to become more female-friendly in order to attract women students. Some, like Harvard, are actively reaching out to women in an effort to create a more balanced student body. Still others have succeeded and now boast student bodies where females outnumber males. It’s a positive move and, if their efforts pay off, we may see an increased number of female financial advisors starting to come through the system.

When they do, they may well be better prepared to advise on social investments than their predecessors. In a parallel trend, many MBA programs are now offering more training in social, responsible and impact investing to all students, including female ones. This means that more female business graduates will come out with degrees that prepare them to take up active roles in the social investment marketplace.

Women-run investment firms

At the same time, female financial expertise is taking the helm in more direct ways through a growing number of women-run venture capital firms and all-female investor networks. Firms like Cowboy Ventures, Aspect Ventures, Broadway Angels and Aligned Partners are run by women, for women investors.

Their presence in the start-up marketplace disproves the myth that women investors are risk averse. And, even when the firms don’t specifically target women-run businesses, they seem to be having a catalytic effect on female-founded companies: Women-run investment firms reported receiving more pitches from female entrepreneurs because of their networks. As a consequence, a greater percentage of their investments—up to 40% in some cases—have been in companies started by women.

Elsewhere, women are establishing venture funds specifically targeting female entrepreneurs and focusing on female markets. High Note, run by Genevieve Thiers, seeks to will invest in companies run by women who are solving problems for women.

Women in the boardroom — finally!

Female venture capital firms are a good thing for socially conscious female investors, and, from the looks of it, a good thing for female-run businesses, too. But there’s an even more significant advantage to them: they will put more women on the boards of more companies.

How does that work? Increasingly, venture capitalists claim voting seats on the boards of the companies they invest in. With more female VCs, more of those seats will be occupied by women, giving them more influence over the way businesses grow and develop.

There’s no guarantee that the presence of VC women on boards will have a positive effect for social investing — women, after all, can be just as profit-obsessed as men. Yet, given the interest shown by women in using their capital to back social and environmental good, it certainly could. It will also go some way toward correcting the woeful lack of women on corporate governing boards generally. (Other methods, including quotas, are being tried in some countries, including Germany and the UK.)

In social enterprises, the gender picture in the boardroom is slightly more female positive than the norm. Social Enterprise UK’s 2011 State of Social Enterprise Survey found that 86% of social enterprise leadership teams included at least one female director. By contrast, only 13% of the members of the Institute of Directors, a UK organization for corporate board members, are women.

Looking to the future

Capital, expertise and leadership: these are some of the things more female involvement promises to bring to the social investing sector. Female investors, working with female advisors and investment firms, will be able to do more for female social entrepreneurs as well as social businesses who serve the needs women.

This is a long way from women as beneficiaries and it’s all good. But it’s important to point out that it won’t only be women who benefit from women becoming more engaged social investors.

Changes to the gender balance in social investing are part of a wider expansion in the role of women in business and finance. With greater influence, more autonomy, increasing confidence and shedloads of wealth behind them, women are increasingly in a position to change the way the world invests—and do great things for the planet and its people.

Can’t wait to see what happens next.

Sustainable Luxury Heroines

Guest contribution by Milena Cvijanovich

Women are undoubtedly the leaders of the fabulously successful new Sustainable Luxury business model. They show us through their amazing results how cool, glamorous, sophisticated AND essentially powerful Luxury can be when it has the mission to respect our planet and life of its inhabitants.

High-profile individuals such as Livia Firth with her Green Carpet Challenge and Francine LeFrak, founder of Same Sky, help break the vicious circle of poverty, discrimination and marginalization through beautiful objects handcrafted by women for a market which can afford to help this change. Unsung heroines such as social entrepreneurs Adriana Marina of Animan; and Aissa Dione, a Senegalese textile designer, are further shining examples of the beauty of this new-found synergy. These businesswomen have brought hope and pride back to their own struggling communities with the highly successful manufacture of exquisite textile and other heritage crafts sold to top designers worldwide.

I’ve collected just a very small sampling of these inspiring women and their contribution to the powerful duo-luxury and women’s empowerment.

Livia Firth, wife of actor Collin Firth, seduced the fashion industry, taking clever advantage of her A-list status to launch the Green Carpet Challenge. Throwing the gauntlet to celeb sand designers to take on eco textiles, she got stellar results: Gucci’s new zero-deforestation handbag line, Valentino’s haute couture eco gowns worn at the Oscars, Mette-Marit, crown princess of Norway’s sustainable Pucci dress at a royal wedding. Eco Age, Livia’s venture, is sky-rocketing with star-studded partnerships. As Livia says, “No one has to wear hemp and sandals” to show eco-awareness. With a wink she makes me feel her soft black dress whispering, “Hemp – by Valentino.”

Francine Le Frak has been a philanthropist practically since her childhood. Well-known in the entertainment industry, she is an award-winning theatrical, television and movie producer and has been recognized as a social issue film producer. In 2008, Francine founded Same Sky, a socially-conscious jewelry venture. The company began in Rwanda to give women who had survived the Rwandan genocide a new chance in life. “My vision for Same Sky is to continue partnering with other like-minded companies in order to build a marketplace for products that are handmade, possess authenticity and support artisan communities around the globe. Ultimately we want to spread the idea that shopping can change the world.”

“The beauty of having a successful business is it gives you a wonderful economic platform from which to do good.” Connie Duckworth, retired Partner and Managing Director of GoldmanSachs, transforms the lives of Afghan women through Arzu Studio Hope, a highly successful social enterprise offering stunning bespoke carpets. Working with renowned designers including Zaha Hadid and Michael Graves, Connie celebrates the art of weaving while bringing education and economic independence to women in a struggling,war-torn country.

While the traditional textile industry was disappearing in Senegal with the influx of foreign products, textile designer Aissa Dione came along, an Amazon in shining armor, and launched in 1992 a company specialized in high-end weaving employing over a hundred people. Attracting international designers such as Jacques Grange, Peter Marino and Christian Liaigre with her exquisite furniture textiles, Aissa is perpetuating the skills of traditional Mandjaque weavers and the processing of local African cottons and natural dyes. Aissa’s graphic transformation of traditional patterns into fusion designs for the Western luxury market has brought economic transformation to her impoverished region.

Sustainable Luxury drives positive change through financially viable, culturally enriching and environmentally respectful business opportunities, empowering women from all corners of the globe to connect at all levels and create profitable (and memorable) ventures.

About Milena Cvijanovich:

Serbo-swiss architect Milena Cvijanovich holds a Masters in Architecture from Carnegie Mellon University in the USA. Founder of MCM Designstudio, an international architecture, design and sustainability consulting firm based in Switzerland, Milena lectures on sustainability and the luxury design world and is active in impact investment and gender equality projects. She is also the founder of the Ethnosphere trademark label to be launched end 2013 with the mission to drive change through design.

[Image credit: 123RF]

Empowering Women Through Impact Reaching a helping hand across the “Pioneer Gap”

by Marta Maretich, Chief Writer, Maximpact.com

Women’s financial empowerment has been a hot topic in recent months. There’s a definite (deserved) buzz around gender-lens investing and its potential to make more of impact capital. Yet, while the gender lens approach is an exciting step forward for women’s financial empowerment, it isn’t the whole story.

Impact investing isn’t an island anymore; it’s now becoming part of the financial mainland. By the same token, investing in women happens within the much larger context of the global financial markets on the one hand and the developing impact investing industry on the other.

Looking more deeply into the subject of women and the flow of impact capital reveals a number of areas where the practice of gender lens investing intersects with larger issues in the impact sector. One of these is the sticky issue of supporting impact businesses as they struggle through the”pioneer gap” the tricky mid-stage between startup and market viability.

It’s now clear that women business leaders are a good bet in both financial and impact terms. But when it gets down to choosing investments, practical questions remain: Which female leaders are we really talking about? And which businesses, at which stage?

Doing good vs. making money?

To make the right decisions when it comes to gender lens investing, investors and funds need to come to terms with the fact that the impact investing sector is still a divided marketplace. On the one hand are businesses whose main aim is to do good, especially for the poor; on the other are those whose central goal is market-rate returns. The gender lens, while it helps bring focus in many ways, may not pick up this fundamental difference.

So at which end of the spectrum should we put our capital if our goal is to empower women? The answer is both; plus more in the middle.

There are good options for female-centered investors who want their capital to have the most impact for poor and under served women. Veteran social financiers like Root Capital and Village Capital have reliable track records. Incubator programs, contests and honors for women social entrepreneurs have proliferated across the social benefit finance sector. The enterprises they work with are typically small seed-stage ventures, run by individuals or small teams. They often use microfinance models and with notable exceptions they are often based in the developing world.

On the other end of the spectrum are more impact investments in traditional areas like large-scale infrastructure, renewable energy, real estate and commodities. Today the majority of the more than $4 billion of impact capital is invested these kinds of businesses in developing markets. Very few of them are led by women (as a benchmark, women CEOs run only 4.2% of Fortune 500 companies; only 16% of directors are women). Some of the “new”impact industries, especially tech firms, are among the most male-dominated. And while these businesses may bring benefits to women in a broad sense, their positive impacts tend to by pass the poorest and neediest.

Targeting the missing middle

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with any of this;diversity is one of the strengths of the impact investing sector and the picture is always changing as we learn more. Yet the division points, once again, to a nagging sector-wide issue: the lack of mid-stage businesses with both strong impact credentials and growth potential. This is a crucial problem for female-friendly impact investors.

Recent research has identified some of the factors behind this “pioneer gap”. The main problem is that it’s very difficult for impact businesses to scale up,especially in developing countries where they lack basic market infrastructure, skilled workers and the right kind of capital. Often, there’s support from incubators at the seed stage, but this evaporates as the enterprise gets bigger and its needs become more specialized and complex. Entrepreneurs, whether male or female, struggle to provide leadership at this stage, often lacking key skills or access to expertise or networks that can help them. Many promising impact businesses die here.

For female-focused investors, there’s another issue. The abundance of seed-stage female-led businesses tends to divert attention away from the shortage of investable female-led businesses at the middle stage. The fact remains that many small seed-stage social enterprises, though worthy, will never scale up; some can’t, some simply don’t want to. Yet impact investors; those who are playing for real; need to place capital in businesses that grow, or at least have growth potential.

The disconnect between seed-stage social businesses and growth helps create a hole in the middle of the marketplace where some of the most dynamic investment opportunities should be. More importantly, it can mean that women-centered investments don’t have the transformational effect they should have. Investing in seed-stage women entrepreneurs may bring local benefits, but unless they go on to build organizations and scale their businesses, they will never enter the mainstream global marketplace or reach more beneficiaries. This limits their scope for impact.

Growth-friendly and female-friendly, too

The problem of the missing middle is slowing the development of the impact sector, but it also creates an opportunity for investors and funds. Those who want to focus their capital on women can multiply the benefit of their investments by targeting mid-stage female-led businesses with growth potential.

  • – Make supporting mid-stage impact businesses a priority in your woman-centered portfolio.
  • – Analyze the portfolio: How much investment is going to mid-stage businesses? How much capital is backing intermediaries and accelerators who work with mid-stage businesses?
  • – Partner with impact accelerators and intermediaries who specialize in supporting businesses in the pioneer gap; LGT Philanthropy’s Smiling World Accelerator Program is one example.
  • – Consider women-friendly investments with more modest financial returns: 5% per year or lower. Modest return goals mean mid-stage businesses can benefit from capital without being squeezed by investor expectations.
  • – Create a woman-centered fund backed by philanthropic capital. Rather than channeling philanthropy dollars away from good causes, use them as capital for supporting mid-stage businesses in the pioneer gap, as Acumen does.
  • – Build blended investment funds that combine capital with philanthropic or technical support funding for mid-stage businesses. Sophisticated impact funds, such as the Grassroots Business Fund, are increasingly using models that blend philanthropic with impact capital.
  • – Look outside the social benefit sector for scalable female-led businesses that have positive impacts. Mainstream investments in areas like health, renewable energy, accessible finance,education and biomimicry are all areas where women business leaders are making a mark as well as a contribution. Open deal sites like Maximpact have a range of different kinds of deals in different sectors.

Using gender lens goes some way toward encouraging investment choices that benefit women. By looking more deeply at the nature of these businesses; and meeting their needs at each point in their growth cycle; investors can do even more for women, especially those making the difficult shift from entrepreneur to organizational leader. At the same time they can help build the impact marketplace by nurturing businesses through the pioneer gap. It’s a win-win-win situation for women, investors and the marketplace.

[Image credit: 123RF]

Impactful Empowerment: UnitedSucces

Guest contribution by Yvonne Finch, Director of UnitedSucces

When exploring the words “impact” and “empowerment” it is easy to overlook the true depth of meaning behind the potential for the words when you combine them! Exploring how women throughout the world can be positively affected so that they feel the true benefit of impactful empowerment it is important to explore why women don’t succeed or don’t proceed as fast as expected.

In business it remains a fact that there are not enough women on Boards, that access to finance for a woman to grow her business is a consistent challenge, and acceptance that a woman can juggle the roles of mother, wife, and successful career woman are still questioned.

Getting to grips with why progress seems slow is the key to unlocking the potential of “what might be”. Questions asked of women about how to survive and climb up within the world of business world evoke interesting responses and are often not related to the predicted ones. Concerns about proving competency, even though this is unnecessary, and worrying about how to move to the next level, surface from those perceived to be successful and in all cases there is no proven reality to their thoughts.

So what is wrong? What should women do to bridge gaps? What is the real challenge?

Interestingly everything is fear based. Fear from the individuals of what might happen as a result of some action. If they speak up about development needs could they be seen as incompetent or weak, or if they share their years of knowledge will their job or business be compromised?

How can fear be circumvented? Acknowledging the emotion is the first step forward and once this is accepted it is a small step to find the courage to understand the basis for the fear and to address it. This is where the open and honest support from other women can provide a platform for personal growth.

Choosing a women’s organisation whose members understand the journey being undertaken and where those members are prepared to reach out and share their expertise, life journey or skill is a proven way to overcome some of the paralysis that fear can provoke. Mentoring programmes also add an alternative dimension to understanding and individual growth.

These interventions are based on women being able to access a place of trust. A trusting environment allows individuals to grow at their own pace, safely. And it allows for feedback to be given where barriers to acceptance are negated. Seeking creative solutions to challenges through the support of another has proven to have worth.

When women make the time to engage with each other and put budget aside to join an organisation that exposes them to women in other world geographical locations, they can more easily assess the true relevance of any negative self-talk they may experience.

They can meet women who could become their informal mentors or participate in a more formalised mentoring structure and they can become mentors for others. These actions allow for bench marking of achievements and women learn that it is OK to pat themselves on the back.

Women often live exceptionally busy lives, and are known to work longer hours than their male counterparts, so they will often put themselves at the back of the queue in the opportunity of self development, as they perceive that other commitments should come first. Yet wisdom states that the journey “forward” is far longer when started from the back!

So “impactful empowerment” or “strong liberation” will result when concrete steps towards eradicating fear are achieved, and positive self belief replaces negative self perception.

About UnitedSucces

UnitedSucces is an international business organisation of carefully selected ethical women entrepreneurs. UnitedSucces believes that economically empowered women, who have a support system they can depend on, have a significantly high impact on society, through investing in improved livelihood, health and education of their families and broader communities. By supporting the needs of emerging and established female entrepreneurs, and by sharing best practices of impactful and sustainable female-owned businesses, UnitedSucces aims to empower and support future responsible female leaders assisting them to make a lasting contribution to the communities and countries they operate in. For more information visit: www.unitedsucces.com

[Image credit: United Succes]

7 Key Impact Investing Vehicles Targeting Women

By Ana LaRue

Women’s empowerment looks to be one of the transformative economic trends of our time. There is a business case for gender inclusiveness and how investors can work with a gender lens to achieve their investment goals. A wealth of research shows how investing in women around the world produces powerful results that benefit families, communities and entire societies – and on top of all makes for good ROI.

While the flow of significant investment assets toward gender lens investing is still in its initial stages, success of those at the forefront is proving that this trend is here to stay.

In a previous blog post we discussed how to strengthen female leadership and career development across the impact investing sector. We now review what are some of the leading organizations when it comes to investing with a gender lens, where to look for opportunities and resources and what are some of the key investment vehicles specifically targeting women.

1. Female centered networking organizations:

  • 85 Broads – Global network of 30,000 women whose mission is to generate exceptional professional and social value for its members.
  • Catalytic Women – Membership based women’s network funding social impact, at any level and to every issue area.
  • National Council for Research on Women – Network of leading university and community based research, policy, and advocacy centers dedicated to advancing rights and opportunities for women and girls.
  • Empower women – UN’s open global community for knowledge mobilization, innovation and partnerships in women’s economic empowerment.

2. Women’s investing networks and organizations:

3. Organizations working to increase the number of women on boards:

  • 20/20 Women on Boards – National campaign aiming to increase the percentage of women on U.S. company boards to 20% or more by the year 2020.
  • Catalyst – The leading nonprofit organization dedicated to building more inclusive environments and expanding opportunities for women at work.
  • 30% Coalition – Organization that is committed to the goal of women holding 30% of board seats across public companies by the end of 2015.

4. Gender lens centered philanthropy, foundations and endowments

  • Women Moving Millions – Community of individuals who have made gifts and pledges of $1 million or more to organizations and initiatives promoting the advancement and empowerment of women and girls.
  • Women Donors Network – Through member-led Donor Circles, regional events and trainings, and network-wide strategic initiatives, this network gives members the opportunity to connect with key leaders in the social change movement and participate in strategic grant making opportunities.
  • High Water Women – Volunteer-driven organization working with nonprofit partners to identify significant volunteer and grant making opportunities to leverage the talents and aspirations of professional women.

5. Angel investors focused on women-led startups:

  • Pipeline Fellowship – Boot camp for women angel investors, working to increase diversity in the angel investing community and create capital for women social entrepreneurs.
  • Astia Angels – Global network of female and male angel investors that invests in women-led, high-growth ventures in high tech, clean tech, life science, health and wellness products.
  • 37 Angels – Community of female investors committed to funding early stage startups.

6. Investment firms that pursues above market returns through investing in women:

7. Microfinance institutions empowering women in developing countries:

Many microfinance institutions often channel a large percentage of their loans to women. Some examples include:

  • Grameen bank – World’s largest microfinance institution whose more than 90% of clients are women.
  • Women’s microfinance initiative – Microfinance program establishing village-level loan hubs, administered by local women, to provide capital, training and support to rural women.
  • Kashf – First specialized microfinance program in Pakistan to specifically target women.

Read more about Empowering Women through Impact.

Women’s empowerment is an important sector of Maximpact’s network. Log in now to search different Women empowerment focused projects, intermediaries and funds.

[Image credit: nexusplexus, 123RF]

Making the Most of Women Professionals in Impact Investing

7 Steps Toward Strengthening Female Leadership and Career Development Across the Sector

by Marta Maretich

Women are breaking ground in the field of impact investing. The prominence of female leaders such as Jacqueline Novgoratz, Hazel Henderson and Judith Rodin suggests that the field of impact investing will be more gender-balanced than was the case with traditional, male-dominated finance. A recent study demonstrates the value of “multilingual” leadership teams, signalling that diversity and collaboration may be the strongest model for impact leadership. All this is good news for women working in impact.

Yet the sector is young; there’s still far to go before it’s firmly established. As impact moves into a consolidation phase, how can female impact finance professionals (including fund managers, executives and board members) improve their performance and make more of a difference? Findings from a National Council for Research on Women report on women fund managers in traditional finance suggest some practical steps women in impact could; and probably should; take to make the most of their professional lives.

1. Recognize the need to mobilize all available talent. The world faces major challenges: food scarcity, health crises, depletion of natural resources, habitat loss, climate change; all areas impact investing targets. We must draw on the expertise and talent of women as well as men in order to find; and, in the case of impact investing funds, to finance; innovative solutions.

2. Strive for a “critical mass” of women in top jobs. Research in related fields has shown that a critical mass of women in leadership roles changes the dynamics, decision-making and culture of organizations for the better. Impact funds should strive for broadly representative gender mix at the executive, officer and board levels. In the longer term, the impact industry needs to determine what a critical mass of women should look like; and create quantifiable criteria, benchmarks and guidelines for bringing more women into the field. This may be a task for a group of industry leaders, or possibly an organization (not yet formed) for women impact investing professionals similar to Women in Banking and Finance or Women in Finance.

3. Build and expand professional networks.
Traditional finance now boasts a number of female-centered networking organizations including 85 Broads and Golden Seeds. Similarly, female philanthropists have the Women Donors Network and Women Moving Millions. It’s about time female impact professionals had one or more such professional body to support career development, provide mentoring, encourage peer support and facilitate learning. Opening more male-dominated impact networks to women, and inviting more men to participate in women’s networks, have been found to strengthen gender equity in other fields.

4. Promote female fund managers and woman-centered portfolios. Funds can do more to identify and promote successful female fund managers and woman-centered (or gender lens-based) portfolios. Funds should promote both to investors, highlighting research that shows that funds and businesses managed by women perform as well as those run by men when the playing fields are level. Impact investment portfolios aimed at women beneficiaries offer clients an added dimension of benefit. Reaching out specifically to female investors, as the group High Water Women does, is another way to find synergies between investors, female fund managers and portfolios centered on women.

5. Gather and share data on women in impact. Quantifying impact; and sharing fund performance information; are already central principles for the impact sector. Yet, apart from some findings included in ImpactAssets50, there is so far little information on the representation of women in top impact finance and leadership roles. Tracking, monitoring and reporting information about the gender makeup of impact funds will help develop the sector. On another level, collecting information about the performance of women impact executives, fund managers and women-focussed funds will clarify the contribution made to the sector by women; and provide information to improve career development and participation.

6. Nurture the next generation of female impact leaders.
Woman impact professionals need to reach out to the next generation of young female leaders. This means mapping the career path for women in impact, then actively encouraging girls in elementary, high school and higher education to pursue subjects, such as economics, math and business, that make it possible for them to succeed. Shining a light on successful women in the field and using the media to make impact careers more visible to young people have both been shown to increase interest. Mentoring, coaching and providing educational opportunities such as boot camps and internships, are effective, too.

7. Support and fund research. Research may not be a top priority for busy impact investing professionals, but it’s essential for the development of the impact sector; and for the successful participation of women in it. The current buzz around investing in women is in many ways the fruit of research and this should be a lesson for the community of female impact professionals. Research has the power to shape sector development; but research doesn’t happen on its own. Someone (could it be us?) needs to help identify research needs, fund the work and disseminate the findings. Women impact professionals need to step up to this challenge, just as women in other fields have done before them.

Conclusion

Impact investing has always held itself apart from traditional finance, pointing to the ethics, values and commitment to benefit that distinguish the impact movement. Yet as the sector grows and evolves, women impact professionals will confront some of the same challenges faced by their sisters in traditional finance. If they want to lead from the front; and research suggests it’s best for everyone if they do; then they will have to build networks, hone skills and cultivate the career self-awareness that characterizes true professionals in every field.

The impact investing sector supports women in many different ways. Now there’s a chance for it to demonstrate its support for the professional women who make impact happen.

[Image credit: mfrissen, Flickr]

View Women’s empowerment impact deals.

From Philanthropy to Impact Investing: The Role of Women Investors in Asia

By Weina Li

There is a historical gender-bias in investment and finance, with women often considered “too soft” and “not enough returns-focused”, whereas their comparative strengths in leadership positions and their importance as key consumer is often overlooked. This explains the extremely low proportion of women investors across the globe, and especially in Asia.

However, the trend is changing. This is in part due to the increasing number of female high net worth individuals; they are high breadwinners, entrepreneurs but also heirs of a considerable proportion of Asia’s wealth. Even more important, is the increasing number of educated women in Asia. According to a 2008 survey, more than half of women with business degrees out-earn their husbands. This is especially true in countries such as Bangladesh, where more and more women gain access to higher education, achieve higher income and bring the region one step closer to inclusive growth and sustainable development. What’s more, women have become savvy investors. Research shows that 70% of married women fire their financial professionals within one year of their husband’s deaths.

For impact investing in Asia, this is good news. IIX Shujog’s database shows that women investors are more socially-minded and tend to focus on more human-centric investments such as health and education, rather than technology-focused energy businesses. Most importantly, women’s strong relationship with philanthropy means that they tend to donate more of their wealth to philanthropic means than men. As the world’s attention turns towards the development potential of social capital markets in the region, this creates an opportunity of transferring large amounts of wealth from the philanthropy sphere into impact investing.

There are still a number of challenges. Studies show that at present, women investors tend to take money for impact investing from their traditional investment buckets instead of decreasing their philanthropy dollars. This is due to the limited knowledge and lack of confidence in impact investing, exacerbated by the lack of familiarity of traditional financial advisors in this new field. There is also a lack of tools to help investors decide how and where to invest.

To fully capitalize on the potential of women in impact investing, more effort is needed to help provide the information women need to become confident impact investors. Shujog and IIX are working together to translate this need into action in Asia through investor education, knowledge building and developing appropriate investment tools to help more women become key contributors of Asia’s social capital markets.

About Weina Li

Weina Li is the head researcher at Impact Investment Shujog, a Social Enterprise seeking to foster growth, maturity and innovations to the SE and Impact Investment sectors of Asia. Weina has extensive experience working with SMEs and Social Enterprises across the globe. Among other projects, Weina has led an impact assessment project in the Peruvian Andes, working with Alpaca farmers to help them enhance their economic capabilities and setting up a women’s handicraft social enterprise. She is now spearheading Shujog’s research projects on women and impact investing. Weina has a BSc in Environmental Policy and Economics from the London School of Economics and a MSc in Environmental Change and Management from the University of Oxford.

This article was first published on The Story Exchange and is distributed with the permission of the writer.

[Image credit: 123rf]

The Role of Impact Investing in the “New Philanthropy”

By guest contributor Virginie Issumo

The new style of philanthropy sits at the crossroads of entrepreneurship, finance and public interest. Its growing status in economic, social and financial activities becomes more and more evident. The size of some of today’s philanthropic contributions; sometimes higher than the budgets of whole countries; coupled with the increasing number of high-net-worth individual philanthropists in India, China, the Middle East and Latin America, demonstrates the efficiency of public interest initiatives from private donors or responsible investors. They act in partnership with public institutions or, in some cases, substitute for them in education, health, infrastructure and entrepreneurship programs as well as in humanitarian and environmental emergencies.The potential for impact investment is huge because it represents commitments in terms of corporate social responsibility. Also, it answers demands from investors looking for true economic efficiency and human and material traceability. This appeals to the powerful philanthropists of today and has the potential to change the way they offer their wealth for the benefit of others.

Ethics and sustainability are key for givers

Wealthy families relate their governance and management criteria to ethics and sustainability. For this reason, bankers, advisors and industrial counterparts need to design offers that address these requirements based on concrete and understandable investments that comply with their values; this, of course, includes impact investing opportunities. If they don’t, they will simply be excluded from the market.

Concretely, a traditional financial center has a unique opportunity to sustainably attract wealth, whether from private or collective funds, both in investing in enterprises as well as projects profitable for the people, nature and thus for the business.

Corporate endowments, sovereign wealth funds, charitable foundations or trusts, as well as the individual savings of residents and non-residents, are collectively worth trillions of euros. The risk that banks and other financial service providers will see their clients refusing ethical investments and changing banks is slight. An ethical way of living, consuming and investing is therefore no longer just an option or a trend: It has become the sine qua non of the investment landscape.This means that in 20 years we could still be enjoying the same economic and energy comfort we have today.

“An ethical way of living, consuming and investing is therefore no longer just an option or a trend: It has become the sine qua non of the investment landscape.”

Climate change galvanizes the sector

The global reaction to the issue of climate change poses on example of the trend toward a new attitude toward finance and impact. Though it may have once seemed academic, something discussed by experts at unsuccessful summits, climate change is now something an investor, a corporation or an entrepreneur may consider as a main element of his marketing strategy.

Climate change is no longer merely a parameter for creating derivatives or increasing insurance premiums.It is now an impetus to produce more with less energy and to reduce as much as possible one’s carbon footprint. Benefits from a clean and respectful approach to production outweigh the expenses generated by reputational risk and natural disasters, which are set to increase, according to recent research by the IPCC.

A responsible producer of iron, clothes or tomatoes now needs to take many things into account in his or her production of services and goods: The use of renewable energy, the human and material costs and the cost of each component; especially of precious resources such as water. A cup of coffee requires about 120 liters of water, the cost of which should be supported by the final consumer and not local farmer in Burundi or Ecuador alone. Countries with strong philanthropic traditions that offer the right tools to organize, maintain, develop and transmit wealth, could take the lead in proactive philanthropy. We all need to focus on new ways of investing, living and producing, to create jobs, protect our environment and create a more complete sense of global well-being.

About Virginie Issumo:

Virginie is a trained lawyer with over 22 years experience in law, finance and philanthropy. Her focus is the impact economy and its role in the sustainable development of Africa, particularly its potential to support entrepreneurship by women and female leadership. Virginie is a member of organizations including the Polar Foundation, Expertisa, Women Role in Philanthropy, Coup de Pouce and Green Mango. She has developed programs in ecology, organic agriculture, literacy and management in the Republic of Congo. She has worked in collaboration with organizations including the University of Luxembourg, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and the International University of Monaco.

[Image credit: Courtesy of Virginie Issumo]

Spotlight Deal: Wello WaterWheel

spotlight deal wello waterwheel

The case of the Wello WaterWheel, now listed on Maximpact’s Intermediary Portal, shows how fast a good idea can catch on, attracting enthusiastic users, collaborators and investors from an early stage.

WaterWheel is an innovative water delivery system that provides a way for people to transport large amounts of drinking water with much less effort. Rather than lugging heavy containers by hand, users push the WaterWheel’s 50 liter barrel in front of them using a convenient handle. The device was designed through an immersive, human-centered design process involving target users and experts in the field. The result is a robust, adaptable system that makes it easier for people, especially women and children, to convey needed water cleanly and efficiently, even over rough terrain.

The WaterWheel is designed to deliver more than water. By giving people easier access to potable water the device frees up valuable time, removes barriers that prevent children from going to school and empowers women to engage in more productive activities. The WaterWheel is also a potential income-generating tool for its target users, giving them a way to help lift their families out of poverty.

After nine months of extensive research and field testing,the latest model of the WaterWheel is now in production. Wasting no time in its efforts to get this technology into the hands of the people who need it, Wello is currently busy raising funding to deliver its technology on a broader scale. Investors have been quick to recognize the WaterWheel’s impact potential, both in social and financial terms: Wello is now just short of meeting its fundraising goals; yet it is still looking for funding to unlock a secured matching grant.

Wello is also using its Maximpact listing to reach out to collaborators. “We’re in the process of building Wello’s board right now,” says founder and CEO Cynthia Koenig. “We’d love to hear from people with expertise in the following fields: legal, finance and accounting, advertising and marketing, mechanical and industrial engineering, fundraising, and working with large international NGOs and other institutions. I’m also looking for business mentor who can provide high-level advice and guidance as we expand.”

For more information about Wello and the WaterWheel, please login to Maximpact.com and visit the deal section. You must be registered with Maximpact to view this information. Go to site.

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