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Investing in Women: A Guide to Gender Lens Investing

Graphic of magnifying glass focusing on two woman.

Gender lens investing is a fast-growing segment of the ESG market. As of September 2021, more than $3 billion in public markets was invested in 26 gender lens equity funds (GLEF) available to individual investors. Another $5 billion is invested with a gender lens in private markets.

Okay, but what does a gender lens actually mean? Like any values-based decision, this can get incredibly subjective, but gender lens investors generally consider one or more of these three questions when vetting a company for investment:

  • Who’s in charge? The company is founded and/or led by women (check out the Fortune 500 list for examples), has a significant number of women on its board, employs women in other high-ranking positions, and consistently hires and promotes women.
  • What’s it like to work there? The company has a gender-inclusive approach to its staff and contractors, such as an effective sexual harassment policy, paid family leave and resources for nursing mothers, and, of course, equal pay for equal work.
  • What do they offer? The company’s product or service advances gender equality, like period underwear or media that addresses gender bias.

Increasingly, gender lens investors are looking at whether gender-forward companies are intersectional in their approach (read: benefitting women of color, LGBTQ+ women, and women from marginalized communities). Gender lens investors can also work in reverse and exclude companies with zero women on top (yep, that’s still a thing), or a history of sexual harassment, or advertising full of harmful gender stereotypes.

How can investors get started? Start by looking up what’s currently in your portfolio. Equileap’s Top 100 Gender Equality Ranking and As You Sow’s searchable database have gender data on thousands of ETFs, mutual funds, and individual public companies. They can also point you toward investment opportunities. If you’re interested in private markets, equity crowdfunding platforms like iFundWomen funnel capital directly to women entrepreneurs in the early stages of launching big ideas.

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