Across a wide spectrum of society there is growing recognition of the central role that women play in the world economy. Books such as President Jimmy Carter’s Call to Action and Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In advocate increased women’s empowerment. Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a strong case for the economic inclusion of women as a vital source of economic growth when she spoke at the first Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation High-Level Policy Dialogue on Women and the Economy.1 And studies by corporations such as Goldman Sachs highlight the potential increases in GDP if women had equal access to employment and credit.2
From these ideas, as well as from work in women’s philanthropy and advocacy for women’s corporate leadership, a movement focusing on the nexus of gender and investment is emerging. This movement, which encourages the use of capital to deliver financial returns and improve the lives of women and girls and their communities, is known as “investing with a gender lens.”
What do we mean by “lens”? A lens allows us to see the world differently. Looking through a “gender lens” helps investors gain new perspectives, highlight poorly understood inequalities, uncover new opportunities, identify blockages in the system, and find value where none was found before.
Why “gender” and not “women”? Although it is focused on the impact of investing on women and girls, the movement uses the term “gender” to emphasize that making change means looking at the socially constructed roles, relationships, and expectations of women and men and the ways that these are reinforced by educational, political, economic, and cultural systems.3 Using “gender” brings both men and women into the conversation. The movement’s objective is to look at the entire financial and social system, not just at women.