Written by: Hannah M. Lewis - Communications & Research Advisor, Global Success Fund ("GSF")
Edited by: Kim Kastorff - CEO/Founder of Kimpacto & Global Success Fund ("GSF")
While working with low-income, urban communities in Lima, Peru, I saw firsthand the entrepreneurial energy and spirit of the women in Latin America. Although funding and support were scarce outside of the formal economy, the women started their own small businesses making chocolates, toys, or sweaters. These female entrepreneurs worked hard to earn a few extra soles to pay for their children’s schooling or doctor’s visits. I was blown away by their drive to build successful micro-enterprises and make a better life for themselves and their families.
This "Theory to Practice" post features organizations whose programs and funds recognize the incredible potential of investing in women. This is by no means a complete list, but it provides some key examples of how to move from gender lens theory to practice (check out my previous blog post, Gender Lens Investing 101, if you’d like a refresher on gender lens theory).
Programs that Invest in Women
Calvert Foundation’s WIN-WIN – Started in 2012, Calvert’s WIN-WIN (Women Investing in Women Initiative) has invested over $20 million in organizations that benefit women in sectors ranging from micro-finance to healthcare. In 2014, after deciding to hone in on the connection between access to clean energy and women’s empowerment, Calvert invested another $20 million in organizations creating and distributing clean energy products and services in off-grid communities. Calvert recognizes how products such as clean cookstoves and solar energy technologies can positively benefit women (as well as the environment, health and education). WIN-WIN illustrates how the overlap between gender equality and other issue areas can have a multiplier effect on greater social impact opportunities and outcomes.
Root Capital’s Women In Agriculture Initiative – According to Root Capital, although women produce more than 50% of the world’s food, they own just 2% of titled land globally and receive less than 10% of credit available to small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. While working with small-scale farmers in Latin America and Africa, Root Capital has seen firsthand these striking disparities. Thus, recognizing the potential impacts of providing reliable economic opportunities for women, Root Capital launched its Women in Agriculture Initiative in 2012. This initiative provides loans and financial advice to gender inclusive businesses, typically in industries that employ high numbers of women (i.e., shea nuts, staple food products) and evaluates prospective clients based on leadership, employment, and gender policy and culture.
Women’s World Banking – Women’s World Banking (“WWB”) is a nonprofit with a 35-year history that collaborates with a global network of micro-finance institutions and banks offering financial services to low-income women. In addition to promoting the benefits of financial access for women, WWB provides these financial institutions with market research, technical assistance, innovative financial products, and consumer education to ensure they are effectively serving low-income female clients. WWB’s work includes the creation of the first private health micro-insurance offering, publications on topics such as “Policy Frameworks to Support Women’s Financial Inclusion,” and the creation of standardized Gender Performance Indicators that enable institutions to better evaluate their impact in improving the lives of women. The WWB’s network of financial institutions serves approximately 19 million low-income women around the world. In addition, Fundación WWB Colombia has been empowering women entrepreneurs for more than 30 years.
Pro Mujer – Pro Mujer is a social enterprise with a holistic approach to empowering low-income women in Latin America. The organization’s financial services, preventative and primary health care services, along with business and empowerment training serve more than a quarter of a million women. With its strong micro-finance program—having disbursed more than $1 billion in small loans over the past two decades—the organization recognizes the benefits of providing savings, loans, and insurance to women. At the same time, the organization also sees the interplay of factors such as health and education that are needed as well to help women rise out of poverty, and accordingly provides health and business education programs to supplement their micro-finance services.
Other organizations in Latin America doing notable programmatic work to support women-led microenterprises include Fundación de la Mujer and since 1985 Fundación Mundo Mujer.
Gender Lens Funds & Angel Networks
Global Success Fund’s “GSF-Latina" Fund – Our pilot for the Global Success Fund (“GSF”) is a women-led fund that uses an innovative, success-based investment model to invest in other women-led businesses. GSF’s first fund, “GSF-Latina,” recognizes the strong social and financial returns that come from investing in women. The “GSF-Latina" Fund provides low-cost debt capital, financial training, and access to global networks for underserved female entrepreneurs and women-led social businesses in Latin America.
Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund (“PXWEX”) – PXWEX is a broadly diversified mutual fund that invests in companies around the world rated highly in advancing women’s leadership. Created by Pax World Management LLC and Ellevate Asset Management LLC, PXWEX is the first such women’s index of its kind. In addition to its focus on gender lens impact, the fund also strives to deliver market or above-market rate returns. When choosing companies to invest in, the fund looks at gender diversity on boards and in executive management, as well as other policies and programs such as the implementation of the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs).
Oxfam WISE Fund – Along with offering funding for women-owned microenterprises, Oxfam’s Women in Small Enterprise (WISE) initiative also provides gender-specific training, access to coaching networks, strategies to address gender stereotyping, and programs to help women entrepreneurs to gain access to new markets and create a more conducive regulatory environment.
Golden Seeds – Golden Seeds is an early-stage investment firm with a focus on women-led businesses. The firm’s mission is “to pursue above market-rate returns through the empowerment of women entrepreneurs and the people who invest in them.” Golden Seeds has invested more than $70 million in start-ups since 2005. There is an affiliated angel investing network by the same name, which invests in women-led businesses. The firm also offers training to new investors through its Knowledge Institute.
Broadway Angels – Broadway Angels is a women-only angel investors group which includes top level executives focused mostly on technology entrepreneurs, and invests in ideas from startup to growth-stage companies.
Of course, these are just a small sample of the organizations doing critical work to promote gender equality and empower women to be successful entrepreneurs, investors, and leaders. Whether by creating innovative financial products and vehicles or by providing educational programs, these organizations are paving the way to a more equal world for women.
In my experience in Latin America, most of the female entrepreneurs do not have sufficient tools, resources, or opportunities. If we can join together and offer greater support globally, I can only imagine the incredible impact we could create for the millions of under-served women around the world, and also their families and communities, not to mention the ripple effect for future generations.
If you’re looking for more resources and organizations for women, or to get more involved - Check out this blog post on "How to be a (woman) entrepreneur" to learn more about accelerator and training programs for women entrepreneurs - written by Kim Kastorff, founder and CEO of Global Success Fund. Or, please reach out to Kim directly - firstname.lastname@example.org. Many thanks and as always, we welcome your feedback and support!
What’s next? Stay tuned for our blog post on emerging global and US trends around Wealth and Women, along with the implications for investing in women and trends for women investors. Also, feel free to let us know about a blog topic that interests you!!!
Kim Kastorff has 15+ years of international finance experience and two Masters degrees - MBA and a Masters of Research in Impact Investing. My goal is to promote impact investing and financial inclusion as we collectively strive for a more educated and financially sustainable global economy.