Gender lens investing is the strategy of putting investment capital to work with the goal of improving the lives of women and girls. Social investment products with this gender focus can be found in multiple asset classes and at varying levels of risk and return. Historically, they have included community development notes, microfinance, private equity, venture capital, pooled funds and managed accounts. Such investments sometimes have a direct, grassroots impact -- for example, financing a catering business owned by women that serves nutritious meals to children in public schools, or providing poor women in India access to low-interest loans to foster the development of cottage industries. Another related strategy for creating social change has been to invest in companies that have progressive corporate employment policies that seek to promote gender equality in the workplace.
Whatever the investment vehicle or approach, the mission is the same. Endowments, foundations and individual investors recognize that focusing their investments in this way can not only create benefits and opportunities for individual women and girls but also help provide economic security for their families and communities. Organizations, too, have embraced the idea that investing in gender equality is a powerful strategy for promoting social change.
A study by the Foundation Center and the Women's Funding Network found that foundation grants benefiting women and girls are growing at a faster pace than foundation giving as a whole. Women investors in particular often want their investments to support women's issues and to have a positive impact on their gender.