Gender Lens Investing
Supporting women and girls is an essential component of our central mission to
reduce poverty, and balanced workforces can also improve financial performance.
As capital providers, we recognize we have the ability to promote gender equality
throughout our portfolio companies.
Adopting a gender lens
In 2017, our impact investing sister organization, the AlphaMundi Group, adopted a three-pronged framework from the Criterion Institute for applying gender lenses across the SAIF-Bastion portfolio. These three pillars are: products for women, workplace gender equality, and women’s access to capital.
The AlphaMundi Foundation aims to mobilize resources to help growing companies identify and capitalize on opportunities to improve gender-related social and financial outcomes. At the same time, AlphaMundi Group is working to embed gender analysis in the pipeline screening and due diligence process for its funds and discussing with its portfolio companies gender insight metrics to track and report.
We seek to embed gender-smart practices in the DNA of companies at an early stage, empowering women at all levels of the organization and ultimately delivering enhanced social and financial returns. As early-stage capital providers, we can influence the governance, strategy, and business operations of SMEs. With a hands-on approach we identify opportunities for companies to integrate gender-smart principals across their business model – from equitable systems and structures to product design, manufacturing, and distribution – agnostic of leadership or ownership composition, product or service orientation.
Embedding gender in the investment process
In addition to continuing our collection of gender-disaggregated data, the AlphaMundi Group started embedding gender in the diligence process using the gender integration tool published in Acumen’s “Women and Social Enterprises” report.
There are some positive trends mixed with room for improvement. Among our own ranks, women are as well represented as men, as well as on the investment team and on senior management. 2 of 3 investment committee members are women, and 1 of 3 board members is a woman. Among portfolio companies, 56% of CEOs state that their companies operate with a gender lens. In the last 5 years, 42% of their full time employees have been women. The absolute number of women employed has grown from 250 to nearly 2,000. A quarter of the Boards of Directors of portfolio companies are female.
Integration across our portfolio
We are working with existing portfolio and priority pipeline companies to make gender lens a core business principle across their business model, akin to environmental sustainability or social impact. Due to resource constraints and competing priorities for nascent companies, grant capital is often required to implement analysis, workshops and trainings to integrate gender considerations across their business. With support from USAID INVEST, we are conducting gender-smart technical assistance projects with 6-8 portfolio companies.
Building the evidence base
At Women Deliver in 2019, we launched the Gender Smart Enterprise Assistance Research Coalition (G-SEARCh) initiative, a group of five, like-minded impact investors committed to investing with a gender lens. Coalition members include Acumen, SEAF, Root Capital and AHL Venture Partners and each investor has committed to execute gender-smart technical assistance interventions with a minimum of three portfolio or priority pipeline companies. By creating G-SEARCh, consortium members recognize an opportunity to leverage our respective efforts to identify similar challenges opportunities, lessons learned and replicable insights that could be shared with the broader investment community.
An example from AMG’s portfolio
“When you give a woman money, she knows what to do with it and how to spend it. Women are responsible. We spend to improve daily life as well as society. We are good at communicating and quick to understand every situation. This is why I am so grateful for All Across Africa, because I see them giving women a chance to succeed.” – Kabasinga Concilide, age 47.
All Across Africa is a Fairtrade-certified company producing high-quality handmade home décor, kitchenware, dining ware, and jewelry sold in the US. Of their 3,000+ artisans, 95% are women, working in Rwanda, Uganda. AAA’s senior management team is also 60% female, including the COO and CFO.
The company notably enhances women’s quality of life: 94% of artisans have purchased livestock or land after working with AAA, 96% of their children attend(ed) primary school, and 88% use savings accounts. These effects then ripple outward; AAA measures regional social impact and has noticed both increased productivity and jobs created across 8 sectors.