October 3, 2023

Introducing Standards of Practice for Gender Lens Investing

Gender lens investing has long sought to capture impact beyond the representation of women on boards, or a simple count of women-led businesses. In recent years, increasing discourse among those in the field has shifted from why gender lens investing matters, to what ‘good’ gender lens investing looks like. Naming specific gender-transformative outcomes has convened a robust community around a common goal.

However, the field has not yet reached its potential due to challenges with implementation. Impact metrics help investors to identify what social change outcomes they intend to achieve but these take years to measure. Additional guidance is needed on how to achieve those goals, with short-term indicators to reassure investors that some progress is being made along the way.  

Recent conversations in the field have highlighted the value of tracking shifts in power, privilege and bias in investment practices as a way of increasing confidence in longer-term gender equality outcomes. Ultimately, without specific and measurable changes in investor practice, efforts to advance the quality of gender lens investing implementation will be incomplete. Simply put, we can’t keep repeating the same behaviors and expect different outcomes.    

Understanding power dynamics is central to evolving implementation in the field because they are embedded in current finance practices—many of them inequitable. These practices become an obstacle to the social change being sought, yet because they usually go unexamined, their effects aren’t visible. We must uncover how power, privilege, and bias operate in finance, and identify specific practices that disrupt those power dynamics and are therefore more likely to lead to better outcomes.

Our latest paper presents this expanded approach in more detail. It has been written for standard setters - asset owners, foundations, and governments - who want to ask for more to be more effective in creating the change they seek. This paper was created to help them start thinking about why, and how, they might do that.

This work has been a collective effort, built over years in collaboration with fund managers, activist organizations, and governments, drawing on important work from leaders across the gender lens investing field. It is part of the ARISE project, funded by Global Affairs Canada.

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