Just before the end of the difficult year that was 2020, the world’s largest investor quietly allocated nearly $3 billion to gender lens investing. This move by the Japanese Pension Fund marked an inflection point for Gender Lens Investing. It was a huge vote of confidence in the long-term returns expected from such investments and a moment at which it was possible to see that GLI was moving rapidly from being a niche product for committed social change investors, to becoming part of the mainstream. That is happening despite the global economic lockdown brought on by the COVID pandemic, which has been the first big test for sustainable investing products, which they have passed well.

It makes it a good time to think about what this field can do for individuals and institutions with capital to invest, to look at how far it has come since it was first defined ten years ago, and to consider how the principles that underlie GLI are beginning to support new approaches in other fields, such as racial justice and progress for LGBTQI communities.

To do that, the Lark Rise Partnership has created  a  series of podcasts on Gender Lens Investing for Ariadne, the European funders network. The series, supported by funds from the European Commission, examines the role that GLI plays in the growing field of ethical impact investing.

Marvin Owens, an American pastor and human rights leader who now runs an ethical investment house, believes capitalism with a conscience is an increasingly important highway to reform. “More and more investors are not only looking at how their money can do well for them financially, but how their money can also serve their social cause. This is why the impact shares model is really beginning to take off.”

The podcasts look at what Gender Lens Investing means, why data is vital and how to extend the same principles to racial justice and LGBTQI communities. We also provide a guide on how to invest with a gender lens and look at how upheavals like COVID and Black Lives Matter are changing the possibilities in this growing field.

The starting point is that Gender Lens Investing now appears to show clearly that gender balanced work places are connected with better outcomes. Such companies and organisations are happier, healthier and more prosperous. Suzanne Biegel, one of the pioneers in the field, says: “We have so much data now that says – whatever metric you look at – there’s a high correlation between gender balance and women’s leadership and decreased risk and decreased volatility, which is what investors care about as much as they do about upside and improved performance.”

The principles developed in Gender Lens Investing, and green ethical investing before it, are now being re-purposed to support racial justice and progressive change in LGBTQI communities.

The Ariadne podcast series on ethical investing was written and presented by Jo Andrews and edited and produced by Bill Taylor, co-founders of the Lark Rise Partnership. Here’s a link to the series: