#WomenFunded2019: A Finale of Feminist Leadership Fireworks

The final lineup of WFN’s conference Leadership for a Changing World felt like a fireworks finale of feminist brilliance across philanthropy, art, business, and politics. Let’s take a look at these amazing blasts of thought and strategy leadership one at a time.

Whose Story Is It?

Jeanne Bourgault, President and CEO of Internews, and Cristi Hegranes, CEO of Global Press, discuss strategies for increasing women’s representation as media creators and subjects.

Cristi Hegranes, CEO of Global Press and the Publisher of Global Press Journal, and Jeanne Bourgault, President and CEO of Internews, discussed how having more women creating and distributing media can have a significant influence on how we interact with, interpret, and change the world.

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Women Give More from Less

New Research by PayPal helps us understand women’s giving behavior and impact. (Infographic Credit: Paypal)

New research supported by Paypal points to the fact that women give more to charity while earning 19% less than men, and as they age, women become more generous.

Since Paypal processes the payments for more than a half million charities, it has decided to release its first-ever annual insights on where, why, and how people are donating their money online. PayPal’s 2018 Global Impact Report found that in 2018, 55.1 million people from over 200 markets contributed $9.6 billion to more than 665,000 charitable organizations via PayPal.

Top Giving Trends

There is a lot to unpack in this research, but overall, an important finding of the study is that those who have less give more. The study found that “Donors in the low-income bracket ($0-$49,999K) give the highest percentage of their income to charities (0.63%) over any other income bracket.” Those with higher income levels ($125k+), only give 0.14% of their income on average.

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Canada and Equality Fund Commit $300 Mil CAD to Women’s Rights

A new initiative that crosses public/private lines, The Equality Fund, has formed in Canada to address women’s rights in some of the world’s poorest countries. (Image Credit: Equality Fund)

The Canadian government recently pledged $300 CAD (about $225 million U.S.) toward improving women’s rights and economic security in the developing world. Maryam Monsef, who serves as Canada’s Minister of International Development and Minister for Women and Gender Equality, made the announcement on June 2 ahead of the Women Deliver Conference in Vancouver, where she is a speaker.

The Canadian government is partnering with the Equality Fund to administer the funds. The Equality Fund is a consortium of Canadian and international organizations that is funding efforts to improve outcomes for women and support gender equality globally.

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Texas Women’s Foundation Honors Seven Pioneers and Raises $600,000

Left to right: Retta Miller (event co-chair), Roslyn Dawson Thompson (TXWF president & CEO), Dee Dee Bates (Maura honoree), Ana Hernandez (Maura honoree), Sally Dunning (Maura honoree), Dr. HaeSung Han (Young Leader honoree), Ana Rodriguez (Young Leader honoree), Ashlee Kleinert (Maura honoree), Nicole Small (Maura honoree), Thear Suzuki (event co-chair), Effie Dennison (Texas Capital Bank), Brenda L. Jackson (selection committee co-chair), Sallie Krawcheck (keynote speaker). (Photo credit: TWF/Kristina Bowman)

For the Texas Women’s Foundation, 2019 has provided excellent opportunities to build on the groundwork laid by their 2018 transformation.

On May 2nd, the Texas Women’s Foundation held its annual Leadership Forum & Awards Dinner, presented by AT&T at the Omni Dallas Hotel. Like previous years, the LFAD event was an opportunity for the Foundation to look back on its achievements and work from the past year, but 2019 marked the first such event for the organization since its rebranding in 2018.

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Growing Women’s Financial Power: Microfinance as a Feminist Strategy

David Gough, CFO and Vice President of Grameen America, spoke with Philanthropy Women about Grameen’s new impact fund, which will make $140 million in loans over the next five years to low income women across the country.

With every day in America bringing news of regressive political changes that will negatively impact women, it’s important for those who want to increase gender equality to explore different strategies for reaching women who need resources. One strategy that recently caught my eye was Grameen America’s announcement that, in celebration of its 10-year anniversary in the U.S., it would enter the fray of impact investing and disburse an added $11 million in capital in microloans to low-income women across the country. With this new fund, over a five-year period, Grameen will make $140 million in loans to low-income women who are struggling to get a foothold in the U.S. economy as entrepreneurs.

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How BRAVA Investments is Taking Gender Lens Investing Mainstream

Natalie Molina Nino is CEO of BRAVA Investments, which takes a value approach to investing in products and services that benefit women.

One of our goals at Philanthropy Women is to explore different ways to invest in reducing the gender gap and building a better economy — ways that operate in both philanthropy and in regular business markets. Alongside gender lens grantmaking, progressive women donors also have another important way they can deploy their capital for gender justice: gender lens investing.

One new investment instrument that recently came to our attention is BRAVA Investments, headed by CEO Nathalie Molina Niño, with partners Trevor Neilson and J. Todd Morley. BRAVA is not primarily focused on supporting women owned start-ups or getting more women into the c-suite of corporations (though this is something they look at), but on investing in industries that economically benefit employees or consumers that are disproportionately women.

“I don’t think investing in women will become mainstream and be taken seriously until we prove that it is lucrative,” said Molina Niño, in a recent phone interview with Philanthropy Women.

Founded in August of 2016, BRAVA brings together Molina Niño’s expertise in large-scale business development and operational growth, with a value-based approach to investing that contrasts sharply with what many other gender lens investors are doing today.

Where did Molina Niño get the idea for her unique approach? To introduce her reasons for developing BRAVA’s approach, she referenced a recent study by Project Sage, which rounded up 58 gender lens investing instruments for a detailed analysis. Molina Niño said she did similar research in preparing for the launch of BRAVA.

“I did a mini-version of Project Sage a couple of years ago,” said Molina Niño. “What I saw was that a lot of my friends and colleagues were starting funds for women and they were struggling to raise cash, so they were these little micro funds worth like $2 million to $15 or $20 million tops. And they were all focused on early stage, very early stage, and higher risk. And they were doing it in the traditional venture capital way, where you invest in 100 companies and you hope that 10 of them will at least provide some return and one or two will really take off.” But Molina Niño didn’t want to take that approach.

“I wanted to do later stage investing, and I noticed nobody in the gender space was doing that,” she said. She liked later stage investing because it meant lower risk, and she also liked being more attractive to large scale institutional investors.

“For me it has always been about scale.,” said Molina Niño. “Even if you’re doing amazing work, but you’re doing it with $10 million a year, that’s pretty small potatoes. It’s never going be part of a big endowment or a big pension fund, it’s never going to be something that moves the needle in a big way. So for me, scale was important, as well as investing in companies that I think we can grow, and not expecting 90% of my companies to go bust.”

Another thing Molina Niño noticed, when she looked around at colleagues in gender lens investing, was that nearly all of the gender lens investing instruments created over the past 10 years are dominated by white women. “Even though I know many of the people who started these funds, and so I believe it’s in no way intentional, but it’s as though somebody wrote a memo and said, ‘Okay people, we’re only investing in white women.'”

So that was another challenge for Molina Niño. “Women of color get .1 % of venture capital,” she said. “You don’t hear many people talking about that.”

Molina Niño wanted to change that, but she also saw some problems in taking an approach of primarily funding women-led start-ups, since that also had limitations in terms of impact. “At BRAVA what we do is, we consider investing in women not to mean necessarily investing only in women entrepreneurs,” she said.

By way of example of the kind of business BRAVA is tracking, Molina Niño described a company called Honor in San Francisco that is a platform for matching people with elder care professionals. “They do a great job of building trust, because the site helps you find people who are vetted, and they have a great reputation for that. Part of how they got that reputation is by attracting and retaining their talent. ”

The way they do that, said Molina Niño, is by paying their workers $20 an hour, in a industry where workers generally receive no more than $12 an hour. “That’s huge. That’s life changing, the difference between $12 and $20 an hour.” Molina Niño also sees the writing on the wall for the need for elder care services in the US. “You have 10,000 people who are turning 60 every day in this country. This is a massive growth play.”

For Molina Niño, the litmus test for deploying capital is that the investment be measurably improving the economic lives of women, at scale, as part of their core business model. “It makes zero difference to me whether the founders are women. It makes zero difference if the board is made up of women. I would love for that to be the case, and maybe after I invest in them, I can influence that to be the case. But it doesn’t make all the difference to me, because they clearly have a model that takes large numbers of women and substantively changes their lives.”

BRAVA Investments hones in on opportunities for making the most impact in gender equality by investing in mid-level growth companies in health care, education, and consumer products, that are economically benefiting women. “If I think about how am I going to make the most impact, by making one woman entrepreneur successful, or by focusing on a company like Honor that is going to help thousands of women rise out of poverty, I’m always going to choose that latter model,” said Molina Niño.

BRAVA’s investment’s focus is on high growth business models that economically benefit women. “I don’t believe that making the one woman a billionaire is going to translate into thousands of women being better off,” said BRAVA’s co-founder and CEO, Nathalie Molina Niño.”I think if you believe that, you’re basically talking trickle down economics. And I don’t believe it.”


This graphic, courtesy of Brava Investments, shows where Brava’s focus differs from traditional investing, with its higher impact on women.

The good news about BRAVA’s approach is that it attracts serious investors with deep pockets, who hear that BRAVA is working at a larger scale and also using a strategy economically benefiting large populations of women. “We’re focusing on domains where women are the majority — either they have a majority of women in their workforce, or a majority of women in their consumer base.”

BRAVA is taking a much different lens than other gender lens investing instruments, capturing the value of investing in economic sectors that influence women’s lives instead of in corporate structures that value women’s leadership.

“I worry that gender lens investing has been too focused on women in the corner office,” said Molina Niño. “So if you look at Sheryl Sandberg and her book, she is focused on the fact that there’s a lack of women in the C-Suite. I step back and think, what percentage of the total women in the world are going to be worried about getting into the C-Suite?”

It’s not that Molina Niño does not want to see more women in leadership across all sectors, but there are different ways to create prosperity for women. “As a woman entrepreneur, I’m personally very impacted by issues around women’s leadership in business, and I co-founded a center for women entrepreneurs at Barnard College at Columbia University, so nobody can say I don’t care about women entrepreneurs, but I have a hard time making the entire story be about that tiny sliver of the population. What about the other 99% of women who will never start a business and who will never make it to the c-suite? They deserve to be invested in, too.” And she believes the evidence shows this broader lens also makes for better investment returns.

A final key point for Molina Niño is the essential role of strong alliances with men in the financial sector and beyond. “Men need to be a big part of this equation,” said Molina Niño. So while the end game is about benefiting women, Molina Niño sees plenty of room for men to be involved, especially when it comes to raising capital. “It’s silly to exclude the people who have all the power, influence, and capital, and so my business partners and co-founders are men. I did that on purpose.”

More about BRAVA Investments here.


Women’s Growing Financial Power: Gender Lens Investing Explodes in 2017

Want to Invest with a Gender Lens? Put this Women-Owned Firm On Your Interview List

Women Leading Change Event in Providence Features Jackie VanderBrug

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Women’s Growing Financial Power: Gender Lens Investing Explodes in 2017

This graph from Veris Wealth Partners shows the remarkable growth in Gender Lens Investing over the past three years.

Great news for the gender lens investing sector — 2017 brought a massive 41% increase in public market securities that use gender lens strategies.

A report entitled Gender Lens Investing: Investment Options in the Public Markets produced by Veris Wealth Partners has the details. Suzanne Biegel, Founder of Catalyst At Large,  is credited with collaborating and gathering the information used in the analysis, this being her second year working in partnership with Veris Wealth Partners to create the public market scan. The study pulls together information from over 23 gender lens investment instruments produced by a wide range of financial companies including Barclay’s, Pax Ellevate, State Street Global Investors, ThirtyNorth Investments, Morgan Stanley, and others.

This news is not only good for the sector of gender lens investing — it’s good news for the larger world as well, since there is growing evidence that when women have more access to financial resources, money often gets distributed more widely, and economies thrive.

Gender lens investing made a remarkable jump in 2017, going from $645 million in 2016 to $910 million in 2017. And while $910 million is an impressive amount of money to be devoted to gender lens investing, in the larger picture of asset management as a whole, the gender lens investing sector is still relatively small. In an industry that manages an estimated total of $71.4 trillion dollars as of 2015, $910 million is .00127% of that $71.4 trillion total — in other words, a drop in the bucket of total financial assets under management.

An analysis by Bloomberg combined public securities gender lens investing with estimates of other forms of gender-based investing and found that in 2017, over $1.3 billion had also been invested in private equity and venture capital at 50 funds using gender-based strategies. So if we add that $1.3 billion in with the $910 million, we’re at about $2.2 billion, or .00308%.

But it’s movement in the right direction. The financial sector will no doubt be paying more attention to gender lens investing in the future, as women become more fluent in exercising their financial power. Women in philanthropy are wise to look at gender lens investing as a close cousin of gender equality philanthropy — another important way to deploy funding for maximum female empowerment. We also need to look for ways to make the public aware of the benefits of gender lens investing, and make gender lens investing more accessible to different sectors of the economy — middle class investors, for example, and institutional investors.

Full report is here.


Knight Foundation Study: Women and Minorities Control Only 1.1% of Asset Management Industry

Want to Invest with a Gender Lens? Put this Women-Owned Firm On Your Interview List

Heavy Hitters Collaborate on New Blueprint for Women’s Funds to Lead Social Change

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Want to Invest with a Gender Lens? Put this Women-Owned Firm On Your Interview List

Investment experts like Suzanne Mestayer, Managing Principal at ThirtyNorth Investments, are leading the way for gender lens investing to become a larger part of the financial sector.

While estimates are frighteningly low for the percentage of financial assets under management by women and minorities, that number is destined to change. Leading the charge for this change as one of the few women-owned asset management companies is ThirtyNorth Investments, headed by Suzanne Mestayer, Managing Principal, and Blair duQuesnay, Principal and Chief Investment Officer.

How did Mestayer and duQuesnay become gender lens investors? They were basically convinced by the business case for more women in corporate leadership. “It was an interesting confluence of increasing our knowledge on the topic of women in governance, and learning about how few women are on corporate boards,” said Mestayer in a recent interview with Philanthropy Women. “This coincided with our acknowledgement of our own experiences serving on boards, and seeing the benefits of having diversity on those boards.”

The more Mestayer and duQuesnay researched about the benefits of women’s leadership in business, the more they learned that the news was good. “We realized that if in fact companies with board diversity are performing better, then perhaps there is an investment strategy that not only provides visibility and attention, but also provides real financial reward for investors.”

ThirtyNorth has done its own gender lens investing research, which is coming out in the August issue of Investments & Wealth Monitor.  “In doing our research, we were coming to the same directional conclusion, that board diversity correlated with better company performance,” said Mestayer. 

So ThirtyNorth developed a unique strategy that weighs stocks for both financial performance and gender diversity on boards and in executive leadership. “We seeded it in April of last year, and we’re very happy to see the level of interest and attention it’s getting,” said Mestayer.

Blair duQuesnay, Principal and Chief Investment Officer, ThirtyNorth Investments

“Being two women who are asset managers, the research really resonated with us,” added Blair duQuesnay, who leads ThirtyNorth’s investment committee and bears the responsibility of researching the firms strategies. duQuesnay has been frequent commenter in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, InvestmentNews, and Business Insider.

“We know that there are so few asset managers who are women. It’s even smaller than the 20 percent we’re trying to see on boards. Morningstar estimates that less than 10 percent of mutual funds are run by women, and less than 2 percent of industry assets are managed by women, so it really resonated with us personally when we read this research and developed the strategy.”

ThirtyNorth’s product is called the Women Impact Strategy, and it allows investors to reap the potential benefits of 50 company stocks that are leading the way in terms of gender representation on corporate boards and in executive leadership. The collection of 50 stocks has been rigorously screened and balanced for diversity and women’s leadership on boards, as well as diversity across sectors of the economy, in alignment with the Russell 3000 Index. It’s a unique — and hard to find — product in today’s financial markets.

“One of the realities of the industry is that many times, people are learning about other investment opportunities that align with their values, but they’re not necessarily hearing it from their existing financial advisors,” said Mestayer. “They’re either bringing it to the attention of their advisor, or they are taking some of their money and placing it differently.”

ThirtyNorth is looking to be one of those places where investors go to place their money differently, and be rewarded for understanding the value of women’s leadership in business.

“The information on the number of women who are interested in investing on social motivated issues is pretty astounding,” said Mestayer, citing research from the Center for Talent Innovation. “90% of women were interested in making a positive impact  77% specifically want to invest in companies with diversity in leadership. Those are very powerful numbers because women are making decisions on about $11 trillion of investment assets in this country. So it’s a very powerful amount of investment and number of women who are interested in an investment approach like ours.”

 It’s not just the consumer interest that makes this product so important — it’s the end result. One end result is companies that have better decision-making and therefore better performance. Another end result is companies that are healthier work cultures for women, providing role modeling and more perceived opportunities for their women employees who want to move up the corporate ladder. The products and services of these companies, as well, tend to attract diverse consumers.

It’s the synergy of all of these social changes being boosted by the Women Impact Strategy that make it an exceptional product. So how can more foundations, especially those with a mission to move the needle on gender equality, get on board?  “I would suggest that foundations do a search to see what is available in the gender lens investing sphere and have conversations with a number of providers,” said Mestayer.

The lower threshold for investing in the Women Impact Strategy is $250,000, so this is a service built for high capital entities like foundations. “We have a very diversified mix of companies — large, mid, and small, some international — and so it’s a good fit for any foundation that is looking to allocate their stock portfolio with a gender lens,” said duQuesnay.

Mestayer emphasized that in the foundation world, there is still a lot of misinformation about the relative value of gender lens investing. “Many times, foundation board members have said ‘we know we’re making grants for philanthropic purposes and the return on investment in real dollars is not always there, but with the money we invest, we can’t afford to invest it in a way that gets sub-par returns.”

But the compelling thing about gender lens investing is the growing body of evidence that it’s actually a financially sound way to approach investing. “Financial returns do not need to take a back seat to moving forward on social issues,” said Mestayer. “In fact, you can succeed by doing both at the same time. That’s the most exciting part of watching this develop. Financial returns are not taking a back seat. That myth needs to be debunked.”

And, it’s not just women who are interested in the Women Impact Strategy. “We are often discussing our product with men, and many men will talk about how, through their personal relationships, they have seen the issues women have encountered over the years, and they genuinely see the benefit of supporting a gender lens approach,” said Mestayer.

ThirtyNorth’s new Women Impact Strategy picks up on an important global phenomenon: The more economies recognize women as the key point of contact for growing business, the more chance we all have to succeed. Mestayer and duQuesnay are part of a growing ecosystem of women’s leadership in financial sector that may, in time, produce more financial stability for everyone.


Heavy Hitters Collaborate on New Blueprint for Women’s Funds to Lead Social Change

Ellevate Holding Conference to Activate Gender Equality Movements

Is It Possible? Accenture Commits to Full Gender Balance by 2025

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We-Fi to the Rescue: Will Trump Lead the World With Empowering Women Entrepreneurs?

The World Bank, along with President Donald Trump, recently announced We-Fi, which will finance women entrepreneurs in developing nations.

In another unexpected “first” for our nation, Donald Trump decided to have his daughter, Ivanka sit in for him at the G20 leaders’ summit in Hamburg, Germany. But another, perhaps more important first also took place at this meeting: The World Bank Group announced the creation of an innovative new facility that plans to invest more than $1 billion to advance women’s entrepreneurship. This new facility will give women in developing countries a leg up when it comes to increasing their access to capital and markets that will help them start and grow businesses.

“This incredible facility will have a significant impact on women’s economic development around the world,” United States President Donald Trump said in a recent press release from the World Bank. “It will help increase opportunities and economic growth while addressing unique barriers women entrepreneurs face. I am proud the United States is helping to lead support of this unprecedented initiative.”

Wow. I think that is the most articulate I have ever heard President Trump sound. Is there hope for a gender equality agenda growing out of the Trump White House?

As it turns out, the United States initiated the idea for this new facility, and will serve as a founding member, along with Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. The genesis of this idea came from United States and Germany, who then invited the World Bank Group to create the facility.

The new initiative is called the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) and is a huge public acknowledgement of the advantages men have in the business world. We-Fi aims to remedy that inequality by providing women with access to capital, networks, and knowledge in order to grow female entrepreneurship. Trump said the U.S. would contribute $50 million to the initiative.

The problems women businesses face are staggering. The World Bank estimates that there is a $300 billion annual credit deficit to formal women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises worldwide. That means that seventy percent of these businesses in developing countries are shut out of the financing they need to grow.

Now, with this new initiative, global leaders are giving unprecedented attention to women as the key point of contact in improving and stabilizing economies. This means women are being newly recognized for the critical role they can play in creating jobs and boosting economic growth, particularly in the developing world. According to the press release, “We-Fi fills a gap where there was no significant fund or facility committed to a holistic public and private sector approach to addressing the constraints faced by women entrepreneurs.”

The strategy will unlock $1 billion in financing targeted specifically to women, with the goal of leveraging $325 million in donor grant funding along with the $1 billion in financing.

It is really interesting to see how the issues of women and financial power are coming together on the global scene, even as women and other marginalized populations face unprecedented threats to their human rights and access to health care.  We will be watching the We-Fi initiative closely here at Philanthropy Women, since it so importantly ties together private and public support for women’s empowerment globally.

More information on this new initiative from World Bank.

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Is It Possible? Accenture Commits to Full Gender Balance by 2025

Accenture, a professional services company, has announced a new goal to reach gender parity in its workforce by 2025.

Accenture, a professional services corporation which has studied and made public its own employee demographics, plans to reach 40% female employment by 2020. In addition, the corporation recently announced a new goal for total gender parity in its workforce by 2025.

But is it possible? Studies that peg the gender ratios for corporate boards predict the year that gender parity will be realized on corporate boards is 2055. Other studies suggest it will take another 40 years to close the gender pay gap in academia. But the company has a strong ethic of transparency that they believe helps them advance community objectives, and might possibly put them in a position to lead the charge on gender equity in business. “When you publish a goal, it holds you accountable to a higher level,” says Ellen Shook, chief leadership and human resources officer at Accenture, in this article from Fortune.

Let’s hope that, by making these goals widely known, Accenture will be able to influence other corporations in the same direction. The more corporations that make public their goals to reach gender equity, the better.

From the article:

Accenture currently employs 150,000 women globally. In 2016, the company says that women accounted for 20% of its managing directors and 30% of promotions to the MD level. It aims to grow the share of female managing directors to 25% by 2020 […]  The company credits its slow-but-steady progress to its willingness to experiment with how it attracts, advances, and sponsors women. Among the strategies it’s employed: a sponsorship program that connects senior women with two sponsors from the global management committee, a referral program that rewards employee who refer women, blacks, Hispanics, and veterans who are hired with a bonus, and a 16-week paid maternity leave policy.

Check out the the press release at Accenture for more information about its plans to achieve gender equity.Read More