by Juliet Blum
Taeun is a researcher at University of Zurich and Founder of Women in Sustainable Finance.
1. What do we mean when we speak about gender lens investing
Gender lens investing refers to investment activities that invest in women-owned or women-led companies; in companies that practice gender equality throughout their operation; or in companies that offer products/services that improve the lives of women and girls. As you can see, these are a variety of approaches, which is why people can sometimes have different ideas on what kind of investments can be called gender-lens investing and which ones shouldn’t. Beyond those three approaches, which have been identified by organisations such as the GIIN, you can also extend a gender-lens to the overall investment process. You could start with asking questions whether the fund manager is led by women or has a gender policy or whether your advisor is female, for instance. This is probably more relevant for a larger investor, but will have an impact on the currently male-driven financial industry.
2. Where lie the opportunities for investing in women?
When you start looking into opportunities for investing in women, it is surprising that gender-lens investing is not more popular. For instance, several studies show that companies that have more female board members or female leadership have better financial performance. This means that by just buying stocks of companies that have a more gender-balanced board compared to their peers will increase your financial return.What I find personally more interesting though is investing in products or services that benefit women. Women are overwhelmingly the decision-maker when it comes to household purchasing. Women have increasingly more purchasing power, and professional women are one of the fastest growing consumer segments. Yet, there are many sectors where women are still underserved. For instance, in healthcare, there is still a big potential for treatments related to periods or pregnancy. Several studies show that the same illnesses manifest themselves differently in male and female patients, and that our understanding for symptoms of female patients is still lacking. Even though healthcare spending of women is larger than men, investments disproportionately flow into male healthcare. This is a huge investment opportunity, and just an example of many. Already the list of items I can think in my daily life is endless – a smartphone that fits my hand, pockets on my clothes, bras that fit, a financial advisor that does not intimidate me, …
3. What do you find most interesting about the subject of investing in women?
Investing in women is an opportunity for many. It is an approach that makes sense financially (not all impact themes do) and is attracting a lot of interest, especially from women. As an investor, you can enjoy higher returns and as a financial institution, it is an opportunity to grab the attention of female clients. I personally find it entertaining to see financial institutions struggle with the topic because for probably the first time in the sector, they need to try and understand what women want. It is intellectually very interesting to deep dive into the opportunities and observing the big momentum we have currently.My interest in the topic goes beyond the intellectual part and occasional entertainment though. It comes from a deeper sense of justice. As a woman (of colour), I have experienced a lot of absurdities, and I know I am not the only one. The topic of investing in women is my way of encouraging others to vote with their wallet, so that other women and girls do not have to go through the same. If people can also enjoy higher returns along the ride, even better;)