Taking action with gender-lens investing

Ayesha Khanna, Virginia Schippers, Nguyen Thi Nhat Minh CARE Enterprises


In the past 18 months, the global community has seen that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on women.

*This article is a shortened, edited version of the published contribution by the same authors in ImpactAlpha on 18 October 2021.

The corresponding health and economic crises have threatened to reverse some of the recent global gains made in gender equality and have exacerbated the negative impacts on vulnerable people around the world.

The crises have also created an opportunity to truly consider how we might create an inclusive and resilient private sector that has gender equality at the core – not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it will attract investment and growth.

© Alamy

What is gender-lens investment? CARE’s for-profit investment arm, CARE Enterprises, invests in a network of healthy, growing businesses that believe, as we do, that gender equality is an asset and value-creator as these businesses rebound from the pandemic.

There is a growing number of global impact investment funds deploying their capital with a gender-lens, and over 15 OECD governments have committed to mobilizing and deploying over $11 billion of investment capital to promote gender equality from 2018-2020, with a goal of an additional $15 billion by 2022.

There are, however, varying definitions of what applying a “gender-lens” to investment means, ranging from funds that invest in women-led or owned ventures to a more comprehensive approach that considers impacts for women all along the economic value chain.


Yet our recent analysis of gender lens investment funds identified only nine investment managers that are considering gender-based violence and sexual harassment. In addition, our analysis of gender lens funds identified only 17% that provided technical assistance to work alongside businesses to support achieving gender impact goals.

This is why CARE and CARE Enterprises, and its partners, Bamboo Capital Partners and the International Trade Centre’s SheTrades Initiative have designed a new gender-justice impact investment fund whose strategy is designed to tackle root causes of gender discrimination by addressing systemic barriers that keep billions of women from thriving.

CARE-SheTrades Impact Fund

The fund will deploy capital and technical assistance to integrate gender equality into enterprises committed to positively impact their women employees, consumers, and suppliers in emerging markets in South and Southeast Asia.

Core to our fund’s strategy is creating a safe, gender-inclusive workplace by eliminating gender-based violence and harassment across all the fund’s portfolio companies. We are building upon CARE’s experience while working with businesses and nonprofits and through advocacy and policy changes with governments.


Our approach covers four actions:

1. Building awareness across leadership and staff. 2. Designing effective and appropriate workplace policies. 3. Implementing workplace norms and practices that foster a safe environment. 4. Delivering workplace training to all levels of the business to build capacity and to encourage early intervention and prevention.

Our technical assistance incorporates numerous resources for investee companies, such as gender-lens business assessments, safe workplace policies, and training.


Impact that lasts

While applying this transformative gender lens to an investment strategy is an important first step, we know that one fund will not move the needle for all the women who need it.

We need partners in this bold mission. We are asking the impact investment industry to join us to include gender-based violence and sexual harassment as part of a gender lens approach to investing.

Let’s join forces and take action together to create safe and inclusive workplaces for women all around the world.


Women working in trade face more challenges, yet are the driver for economic growth

Addressing gender equality in international trade

Gender parity and small businesses: What role for the Trade Agenda?


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