Colorado Impact Days and Initiative raised awareness of “Impact Investing with a Gender Lens” last month (March 2-4). As a follow-on, I’m thrilled to be co-hosting the Women Transforming Social Impact networking event on May 12 in Denver to promote collaboration, communication, and connection within the Gender Lens space. Join me. Let’s dig into the conversation together.
Gender Lens Investing tends to be a catchall term for investing in women. Yet, the story is so much deeper. Investors, entrepreneurs and community leaders are now asking increasingly pointed questions about financial inclusion, diversity in the workplace, and gender equity, as a result of exploring these issues through a gender-nuanced lens applied to impact investing.
Despite positive data showing consistently that investing in women is good business, a deep, and sometimes negative gender bias persists when the time comes for funding and providing access to affordable capital. And, such discrimination is even worse for minorities and groups who have historically been economically disadvantaged.
This challenge of correcting this situation requires us (men and women) to work together to achieve a systemic shift that changes who makes funding decisions and who gets access to capital. In recent years, I've become increasingly pissed off about the state of leadership, both corporate and political, as well as the decision processes that determined which social ventures were getting funded. The financial gatekeepers are too white, too male, too straight, and too rich. Someone recently told me that a well-known accelerator has difficulty selecting women-led ventures for their program because they don't see enough women-led ventures that show potential for a billion dollar exit. I am not sure what is more frustrating, the notion that only billion dollar ventures are worthy of acceleration or the misconception that women lack the ability to achieve a large exit.
The investment opportunities in the gender lens space are enormous because so much latent talent is unrecognized. There is no shortage of great ideas and amazing women-led ventures to support. As an impact investor, I only invest in women-led ventures. Nevertheless, for every venture pitch I listen to, I never miss an opportunity to ask about diversity and inclusion and parity for both board and executive teams, especially for the male-led ventures. Ample male-led ventures are doing impactful work in the social venture space and working on solving some of our largest challenges for women and girls -- but in the impact space we have to set the standards higher and ensure gender and race parity at the leadership levels.
There is a lot going on across the United States and in local communities to create big paradigm shifts. Infact, there are many amazing and engaged men who have lead the charge on impact investing and investing in women, they are my peers who encouraged and helped me in my journey to an impact investor. It’s imperative that they stay involved. And, part of my personal mission is to encourage more women to become impact investors and mentors to social venture entrepreneurs. Women in Colorado are transforming access to capital and shining the spotlight on these issues through their innovative work and advocacy efforts.
PeakChange and Colorado Impact Days and Initiative will be posting sponsorships and speakers for the event on social media as well as tweeting facts about the gender lens space. Come to the event on May 12 to learn how you can get more involved in this growing movement.