Why gender lens investing? First, it helps to know that the world of high finance and big business is still dominated by men. Maybe you never thought about it, haven’t experienced working in the world of finance, don’t really get big corporate business models, or never made the connection to how the increase of women in business overall has not been matched by a corresponding increase of women in key positions. Also, it is not polite to call out a bunch of powerful and successful people, right? However, Sallie Krawcheck, a former Wall Street executive, said it best in an article from the Huffington Post which was written after she was fired from Bank of America. She bravely points out
“We went into the downturn with the financial services companies white, male and middle-aged,” she told the audience, “and we left with them whiter and more middle-aged.”
It is remarkable that she said it out loud. Most of us who work in the industry, or have worked there, just say it in our heads. We learned that a group of highly successful men who are deeply entrenched in doing business one way, aren’t going to simply throw up their hands, bow out, and let the diversity of the world as we know it, wash over them. It takes more than a gentle push; it requires an incentive which is delivered in the language of the marketplace, profitability which equals MONEY. Fortunately the final power in the marketplace rests with the consumer. As the consumer demands different products, better communication, change, and influence over the products and services purchased, the companies are forced to evolve. Gender lens investing represents a meaningful opportunity for women consumers to put their money behind those who are placing women in high level decision making and influential positions. This type of investing says to consumers “out loud” how many women are in key positions in a company as compared to the number of men.
Many of the terms used in the investment community are ones most women don’t think about on a daily basis, or really aren’t familiar with—except through occasional mention in sound bites from the media. The upper levels of decision making in publicly traded companies are held by those serving on the board of directors and employed as C-level executives. It is important to understand the roles of those who hold these positions, since gender lens investing centers around the representation of women in the decision making process. More to come next time about boards of directors and the C-level executives.