Why More Women Should Invest for Better

Gender Equality Funds

Why More Women Should Invest for Better

It was the hook that drew me into the arena of impact investing. I first heard about the concept of gender-lens investing from the innovative people at Criterion Institute 10 years ago. Immediately, I thought, “this is for me.” From there, I became a donor and a cheerleader for Criterion Institute and their cause of creating a new investing viewfinder that would lift up women, and improve the world.

Gender Equality Funds

Like the tip of the iceberg, this epiphany revealed a whole new world beneath it. I dove in and have spent the last five years moving as many assets as I could into gender lens and other impact investing products and ecosystems. Thus began my journey into the world of impact investing as I learned to move my capital to create positive social change.

Ten years later, I am delighted and amazed at how much the term and its practice have taken hold and evolved. New products and methods of investing now exist, and the gender-lens focus has spawned new investment movements; investors can now focus on lenses such as racial equity, human rights, environmental sustainability, etc. As the concept of impact investing has evolved, so has my affinity to it. 

Now I am proud to wear the banner of an evangelist for impact investing. While I continue to use the gender viewfinder as one of my primary investment themes, I am also focusing my energies on another aspect of gender-lens investing: increasing the participation of impact investing among women investors. In partnership with some incredible field-building partners and impact pioneers like Mission Investor Exchange, Mission Throttle, Case Foundation, and others, The Philanthropic Initiative has launched Invest for Better, an initiative to help women demystify impact investing, take control of their capital, and mobilize their money for good — to gender lens and any other social and environmentally focused purpose.

Our goal is to unlock as much capital, as quickly as possible, from a target market which is expected to control almost 65 percent of financial resources in the U.S. by 2030 — women. Studies overwhelmingly show that women want to invest with purpose; yet less than half of those interested are actually doing so. The reasons why are not entirely clear, but we believe there are a variety of underlying causes for this lack of engagement. For example, women are not spending as much time on investing overall.

As a result women feel less confident or knowledgeable about investing. Moreover, women and men are not aware of the many exciting options available to them and how to get started on impact investing. To help combat these barriers, the Invest for Better initiative seeks to inspire women to engage in impact investing, educate them on how to get started and the options available to them, and activate them to take small and large steps forward. Invest for Better offers educational resources, connections to investor networks, such as Invest for Better Circles, inspirational stories of other women who have taken the journey, and an invitation to pledge to take any one of 11 simple action steps towards investing with impact.

When women fail to recognize the potential of their investments to negatively or positively impact society, not only are they missing an opportunity to exert more influence on the world we live in, but they are also leaving the power to make substantial social change on the table. Invest for Better seeks to help women take that power back and, in the process, bring purpose and meaning to the investing process.

Our goal is to unlock as much capital, as quickly as possible, from a target market which is expected to control almost 65 percent of financial resources in the U.S. by 2030 — women. Studies overwhelmingly show that women want to invest with purpose; yet less than half of those interested are actually doing so. The reasons why are not entirely clear, but we believe there are a variety of underlying causes for this lack of engagement. For example, women are not spending as much time on investing overall.

As a result women feel less confident or knowledgeable about investing. Moreover, women and men are not aware of the many exciting options available to them and how to get started on impact investing. To help combat these barriers, the Invest for Better initiative seeks to inspire women to engage in impact investing, educate them on how to get started and the options available to them, and activate them to take small and large steps forward. Invest for Better offers educational resources, connections to investor networks, such as Invest for Better Circles, inspirational stories of other women who have taken the journey, and an invitation to pledge to take any one of 11 simple action steps towards investing with impact.

Want to help move the needle on gender equality issues in the workplace? Visit Gender Equality Funds and apply a gender lens to nearly 5,000 of the most commonly-held U.S. mutual funds. Gender Equality Funds enables investors to align their investment with their values. It reveals which mutual funds are investing in the companies that lead the field in terms of gender balance and equality. Investors can easily search the Gender Equality Funds database to see how specific funds are scored, find responsible options that track leading companies in terms of gender equality, and compare financial returns. Sign up here for updates on Gender Equality Funds.

Ellen Remmer is a senior partner at The Philanthropic Initiative and the coordinator of Invest for Better, a recently launched non-profit, open-source initiative, on a mission to help women demystify impact investing, take control of their capital, and mobilize their money for good. It is a project of The Philanthropic Initiative, created in partnership with key founding partners such as Mission Investors Exchange, Mission Throttle, and the Case Foundation, as well as a Steering Committee of field-building pioneers.

U.S. Women’s World Cup Win Puts Need for Fair Pay Policies Back Into Discussion

Gender Equality Funds

U.S. Women’s World Cup Win Puts Need for Fair Pay Policies Back Into Discussion

The U.S. Women’s World Cup win has put the need for fair pay policies back into discussion. Of course, the usual arguments against this concept are also in play, with the idea that pay differentials are tied to differing commercial values between men’s and women’s sports and that there are different pay structures for performing different work. It remains to be seen whether the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team will be successful in their gender discrimination suit against the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Gender Equality Funds

Pay equity is a priority issue for the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, especially for low income women and their families, and particularly for women of color. The wage gap is a persistent challenge across our nation which worsens for women of color. Studies done by the Association of American University Women and National Bureau of Economic Research, suggests that up to 38 percent of the gap is unexplained and likely outright pay discrimination. While recognizing that some of the gap is due to occupational segregation and family care choices, their research shows that pay disparities appear as soon as women and men begin their careers. Women make less in the same role as men right out of the gate, when caregiving responsibilities haven’t even started. 

Less well recognized is the gender wealth gap. Forty percent of women are the sole breadwinners for their families. As a result of lost wages and more caregiving commitments, women are often forced to take on debt, with median debt being 177 percent that of men. This results in less money to support families and save for their own retirement. If we do nothing to address the wage gap, it is not expected to close until at least 2058; the resulting wealth gap will take even longer to close.

Historically, jobs have been qualified as “men’s” or “women’s” work, with men being compensated more in earlier days because they were assumed to be the family breadwinners. Today’s market pay often reflects past discriminatory practices, even though many jobs are substantially similar in nature. While the Equal Pay Act of 1963 made it a federal requirement to provide equal pay for equal work, the courts have narrowly interpreted this to mean everything must be identical in order to claim pay discrimination. In some court cases, the difference of one word in a job description meant the employer was not liable for discriminatory pay. 

Can we afford to wait decades to make needed change? We think not! Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, in collaboration with local and national groups, is working to pass legislation that would instead pay women equally for comparable work.

Comparable work as “viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions,” and granting employers the ability to pay differently based on the following exceptions:

  • seniority (which does not include time off due to family care leave)

  • a merit system

  • job performance

  • differing education levels (when the education level is pertinent to the job role)

  • bona fide factors that impact the business (and can be construed as working overnight shifts, requiring significant travel, or certifications related to the job)

This year, 39 states are considering fair pay bills. Nationally, the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R.7) has passed in the U.S. House of Representatives but has not yet been passed by the Senate. It should be an easy win with little or no impact to the businesses already doing the right thing. It will, however, have a huge impact for women overall.

Working women can’t end pay discrimination on their own — and they shouldn’t have to. Weak remedies for pay discrimination mean employers can gamble that they won’t get caught. Suing your employer is not a decision most employees take lightly (nor is it inexpensive), so the argument of “frivolous lawsuits” happening is a red herring. Indeed, states where this legislative language is already in place have not found frivolous lawsuits to be a result. 

In the end, fair pay legislation will result in a better business climate. Employers will have quality, happy employees less likely to “turn over” for better paying jobs. The economy will prosper because there will be more disposable income to share. And our community will be stronger because women will be better able to take care of their families. The Women’s Fund of Rhode Island encourages those who support the idea of fair pay to reach out to their local representatives and state Senators to bring this issue to the floor for a vote.

Want to help move the needle on gender equality issues in the workplace? Visit Gender Equality Funds and apply a gender lens to nearly 5,000 of the most commonly-held U.S. mutual funds. Gender Equality Funds enables investors to align their investment with their values. It reveals which mutual funds are investing in the companies that lead the field in terms of gender balance and equality. Investors can easily search the Gender Equality Funds database to see how specific funds are scored, find responsible options that track leading companies in terms of gender equality, and compare financial returns. Sign up here for updates on Gender Equality Funds.

Kelly Nevins is executive director of the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island whose mission is to invest in women and girls through research, advocacy, grant making, and strategic partnerships designed to advance gender equity through systemic change. Nevins serves as a member of the Providence Mayor’s Equal Pay Task Force, Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap Coalition, and the Fight for $15/Fair Pay Coalition.