Gender Lens … or Binoculars?

This month I’m thinking a lot about Gender Lens investments. But in my mind it’s more than a single lens … it’s gender binoculars.

I see two ways to leverage capital towards investments that benefit women, girls and communities around the globe. The first is defined very clearly by Criterion Institute: invest in companies that have women in leadership and across supply chains, create products and services that benefit women, or provide women with access to funding.

But there’s a second, potentially more powerful lens. Channel the more than $14 trillion controlled by women by allowing women to align money and values through social impact investments. So it’s more than a single Gender Lens. It’s really Gender Binoculars.

binocularsIn this month’s Social Impact Update (you can get a free issue here), we offered lots of ways each of us can focus our giving and investing through Gender Binoculars. Here are a few easy examples of investing in women entrepreneurs—and making the world a better place, one startup at a time and often with less than $5,000:

1. Invest in an angel fund with a gender focus. 37 Angels and Pipeline Fellowship are networks of women investors providing seed funding to promising, high growth startups, some of which also focus on women-led businesses. Astia Angels and Golden Seeds are networks of men and women funding women-led, high potential startups.

2. Invest in a company that benefits women or girls. Portfolia is an equity investment platform designed to engage women investors with as little as $2500, and most of their startups have a gender impact. Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index FundMorgan Stanley’s Parity Portfolio, the new Springboard Fund and U.S. Trust’s Women and Girls Equality Strategy (WAGES) also provide equity upside, but with much higher minimum investments.

3. Crowdfund women entrepreneurs. Moola-Hoop and Plum Alley are platforms that make it easy.

4. Support a women’s accelerator. GirltankGlobal InvestHerSpringboard Enterprises, The RefineryWomen Innovating Now (WIN) LabWomen’s Small Business Accelerator and Women’s Startup Lab offer exciting programs to launch successful women entrepreneurs. We especially like those that offer mentoring and investment, like EquitaMergeLane and Upstart.

Our very own Making Micro Mighty: Impact Investing with $20—$5,000 (also free) includes lots more ideas for gender lens and impact investments, as well as high impact charitable giving with modest amounts of money.

So get out your binoculars. Any man or woman can focus money through a Gender Lens. Spending, giving and investing each offer social impact. Together they can represent a perfectly balanced portfolio of financial strategies that benefit women. And raising women out of poverty benefits us all.

If you’re a woman, you are in the driver’s seat to shift money towards your values. (But, maybe, set aside those binoculars until you’re out of the fast lane.)

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