By Emma Kaye, Megan Krishnamurthy, and Saumya Singh
Our WoWE Journey
When you start your journey as an MIT student, one of the first things you learn is the Institute’s motto – mens et manus. It translates from Latin to “mind and hand” and embodies the ideal of education for practical application. For the three of us, interning with WoWE has meant bringing our academic experiences to life in a unique, exciting, and mission-oriented way.
All of us were attracted to WoWE for similar reasons. We felt a strong affinity for WoWE’s mission to advance women and girls worldwide. We also believe in the power of capital markets to effect positive change. Lastly, we were impressed by WoWE’s ambitious and compelling theory of change to bring about gender equity through a specific set of financial tools. So, when we were selected to intern at WoWE this past semester, we jumped at the opportunity to get to work on a research project to investigate how gender intersects with dimensions of climate, education, economic opportunity, and healthcare that are at the heart of WoWE’s mission.
Each of us researched these dimensions in order to determine what the status quo was for women and girls. Then, we conducted a scenario analysis by continually asking ourselves what would happen if the status quo were to be disrupted through impact and mainstream capital. For each of the dimensions, as described below, we were able to determine that investing in women and girls would result in positive change on a massive scale.
The Intersection of Climate & Gender
At present, women and girls worldwide spend more than 200 million hours every day gathering clean water for their families. With an increase in climate related droughts, these numbers would increase as women and girls would have to walk greater distances to gather clean water. With investment into improved local water quality and sanitation in non-urban communities, some women and girls could use this time to focus on their education. As a result, more women and girls would be able to join the labor force and eventually, some will rise to positions of power and leadership. Research shows that women are more likely to focus on ESG outcomes in a variety of different capacities, including joining Boards of companies where they would have additional impact. For example, companies with boards that are at least 30 percent female have better track records of developing and implementing policies to address climate change. Equipping women and girls with the opportunity to address climate change could result in faster resolution of some of today’s most pressing climate challenges.
The Intersection of Education & Gender
For this dimension, we heavily researched what would happen if more female teachers worldwide were elevated and promoted. Research indicates that simply increasing the number of female teachers brings about improved student outcomes, particularly for girls. Improved education for girls results in a strengthened local economy, as these girls are eventually able to contribute to the labor force. As a result of this, women are able to invest more in education for their communities, because we know that women are more likely to contribute to education-related causes. This completes a cycle where more funding goes towards educating more girls, thus creating a virtuous circle of educating girls.
The Intersection of Economic Opportunity & Gender
Similar to the other dimensions, economic opportunity is a broad and critical impact lever. It is possible to advance women and girls in both microeconomic and macroeconomic contexts. One thing we quickly realized in our research is that investing in women’s access to paid employment and financial services had lasting effects on both local and national economies. When women are able to partake in the labor force, productivity grows. A growing labor force and productivity gains are precursors to economic growth, and as a result of women being given the opportunity to work, nations are able to grow more quickly and retain national competitiveness. This eventually leads to hunger and poverty alleviation, which has a particularly profound impact on women and girls in developing countries.
The Intersection of Healthcare & Gender
Women are the greatest consumers of healthcare, but are underrepresented in medical research and decision-making. But consider one of the most interesting facts in our healthcare research, which was that women are 75 to 85 percent more likely than men to use digital forms of healthcare. So when there is increased female representation in healthcare, adaptation of digital methods is likely to happen more quickly, resulting in increased global healthcare savings and improved outcomes for all.
As the three of us think about what is next for us, we are excited to take the lessons we have learned from our time at WoWE and apply them in our future endeavors. WoWE has shown us that there are many different ways to be a changemaker. To that end, we wanted to highlight how we plan to be changemakers in the next year and beyond:
Emma: I am the co-founder of a startup that provides female creatives with the tools they need to grow and run their businesses. I hope to continue investing in women as changemakers through my entrepreneurial work.
Megan: I am the co-founder of a startup called Beatrix, and we are on a mission to create more gender equity in venture capital. Last year, only 2.3% of VC globally was given to female-founded companies. At Beatrix, we are building a data-driven investment platform to help female founders find angel investors that can help them with both access to capital and advisory services.
Saumya: I plan to use my financial engineering background to work at the intersection of impact investing and quantitative finance. Lack of data in the field has made it difficult for investors to accurately evaluate impact projects, so I hope to bridge this gap to make this space more accessible to investors.
We look forward to staying involved with WoWE’s work and hope that you will join us on our journey to a more gender equal world.
For more information on WoWE’s progress, please check the WoWE website for updates. Follow Emma, Megan, and Saumya on their professional journeys by connecting with them on LinkedIn.