Like almost no other time in our history, the past year has laid bare the infrastructure of our divisions, particularly when it comes to gender. From the pandemic, to struggling economies across the globe, to deeply rooted social and racial justice issues, women have suffered disproportionately more than men. At the same time, it is women who have risen to the occasion again and again whether they are our world leaders, business leaders, front-line workers or caretakers.
As we take stock of where we are when it comes to gender equity during this unusually difficult moment, this disconnect between the power of women as the changemakers of our social, economic and political agendas and women who are, at the same time, unequal partners in the decision making and capital allocation processes, could not be starker.
As we seek out the engines that will rebuild our global economy, we have to address the systemic issues that put the female half of the world’s population on an unequal playing field. Systemic change takes more than resolve, more than good ideas, more than coalition-building. It definitely takes more capital.
The fact is that when it comes to investing in women or through women in positions of allocating capital, Wall Street and other owners of capital have a big blind spot.
The economic argument for investing in women is undeniable. If women participated in the workforce at the same rate as men, the global economy would grow by 26 percent. Imagine the kind of changes that growth would mean for women, families and entire communities. And the linkage between women in leadership positions as drivers of better corporate performance is now so well established that the NASDAQ cited more than two dozen such studies in its recent proposal upping the gender and diversity requirements of its listed companies.
And yet, at the present rate of change and Wall Street action, it will take 100 years for women to reach parity with men economically.
The origin of these inequitable capital allocations is deeply rooted and enduring, but it does not mean we cannot resolve to accelerate a different reality.
Unlocking the Full Potential of Women Starts With A Simple Question: What if?
To unlock capital flows, we must shine a glaring light on the enormous investment opportunity that exists at the nexus of gender and today’s biggest environmental and social challenges so that Wall Street and other money-streets across the world, start to plug the gender gap with capital. In other words, capital needs to fuel a “full potential scenario.”
At WoWE we dare to imagine a world in which women participate in capital markets identically to men. It starts by getting investors and capital allocators to start asking a simple but powerful question: What if?
What if we fully recognized the power of women as changemakers who are driving the most important sustainability decisions today, whether they are world leaders or corporate leaders or frontline workers?
What if women were responsible for capital allocation decisions, budgeting processes and policy decisions in a capacity equal to or greater than men? What would that mean for our ability to solve our myriad climate challenges, our entrenched social and racial justice issues, our failing educational institutions?
Put another way, these misallocations – whether they are at the hands of Wall Street investors or corporations – also lead to missed innovation and missed opportunities for investors looking to unlock growth and profits from their portfolios. Sector by sector, decisions are typically being made by men for men, even in sectors in which women are on the frontlines and best placed to make decisions. Bluntly stated, investors are failing to maximize on the potential of downside risk management and upside capture and we, as a society, are losing out.
Only by allocating our capital in ways that recognize the full potential of the power of women to drive resilient and sustainable investment systems and economies can we capture investment upside and create a better, more equitable world.
In my next posts, I will consider what a full potential scenario might look like in different sectors and how investing at the nexus of gender in these sectors would open up enormous investment opportunities while creating a more just world. I invite you to join the conversation with us at wowendowment.org and LinkedIn.