Directing capital to advance gender equality | Part 5 | Playbook: Investing in Gender Equality

Welcome to Playbook: Investing in Gender Equality, a six-part blog series that explores why and how an investment program is an essential part of the Equality Fund’s work to shift power to women, youth, girls, and non-binary people around the world. Through the lens of six “P”s (Purpose, People and Partners, Perspectives, Process, Philosophy, and Products), we will share our approach to gender-lens investing and illuminate the values, strategy, and structure that guide it.


By Bonnie Foley-Wong

At the Equality Fund, we find inspiration in the bold vision and determination that feminist movements bring to their work every day.

We strive to bring that same sense of urgency—and possibility—to everything we do, including our investment program. That is why we work so hard to leverage our resources and our influence, using every opportunity we have to make money work for gender equality twice—first as it is invested, and then again as the returns are put to use by women’s rights organizations around the globe who work toward equality day in and day out.

And here’s the good news: Investing in gender equality creates value over the long term. In this post, we explore more about our investment philosophy and explain how it guides our investment strategy and the investment decisions we and our partners make.

Generating financial and social returns simultaneously

The Equality Fund’s investment thesis—the guiding rationale behind our investment strategy—is that investing capital in businesses that prioritize the perspectives, needs, and rights of women and girls will generate compelling and sustainable financial returns and advance gender equality simultaneously.

A growing body of research affirms the opportunities at the heart of this theory. In contrast, businesses that ignore the dangers of rising inequality, or that have controversies that negatively impact women and girls globally, bring greater risk and, as a consequence, do not produce sustainable returns over time.

By investing with a gender lens, we believe that we can generate compelling investment returns, drive resources and momentum toward solutions rather than simply report the problems, and advance gender equality over the long term. Specifically, we plan to do this by collaborating with partners, intermediaries and fund managers that direct capital towards these kinds of businesses all around the world.

Our investment objectives

At its core, our work is about unlocking the potential of capital to shift power to women, youth, girls, and non-binary people everywhere. The work of these organizations could not be more important; together, they are creating the cultural, economic, and political change we need to secure a gender-equal future. Yet their work is undervalued and under-resourced in every corner of the globe.

We work to change that. In order to support our ambitious goal to put capital in the hands of the women’s rights organizations and feminist movements who need it most, the Equality Fund has designed an investment strategy that will:

  • generate returns to fund grantmaking+ activities, as well as the team and resources needed to deliver on those activities;
  • reflect 100 percent mission-alignment across all of our investments and address gender equality;
  • maintain appropriate levels of risk exposure (in line with the standards of a prudent investor); and
  • meet the objectives of impact alignment, by demonstrating strong environmental, social, and governance impact.

Our investment strategy

The purpose, philosophy, and objectives of our investment program all lead us to a comprehensive investment strategy. That strategy is grounded in a few overarching approaches and principles.

First, we are pursuing a multi-asset strategy, emphasizing equities in order to generate ambitious returns while balancing our liquidity needs and risk constraints. Fixed income strategies, private debt, and private equity will also be important components of our strategy to ensure that we are balancing returns, risk, and impact, all at the same time.

Geographically, we are focusing predominantly on North America and developed international markets. We are also beginning to explore strategies in emerging markets. With a global focus and Canadian roots, we will be sure to invest in Canadian companies as part of our strategy.

Additionally, rather than focusing on a narrow set of themes or issue areas, we will leave room for flexibility to explore where we can have the most impact. Through it all, we expect that our approach will lead with investing via funds so that we can reach farther, though strategies will continually evolve in the years ahead.

Finally, in addition to the Investment Policy Statement, an important guide for our investment decisions will be the expanding and evolving gender-lens framework I outlined in our previous post.

Looking forward

While there is plenty of learning and iteration to come, we are excited about the potential for our investment program to contribute to the growing momentum of gender-lens investing globally. With both strong values and a strong business case on our side, we believe there is a tremendous opportunity ahead—one that will generate critical resources for feminist movements as it advances gender equality.

If the Equality Fund investment philosophy aligns with your approach to investing, we invite you to contact us to learn more about how you or your organization can invest alongside the Equality Fund and other mission-aligned investors. We’d love to explore new collaborations.

UP NEXT — our final post will offer a sneak peek into the investment Products that we and our partners are designing and in which we are investing to bring this vision to life in markets around the world.

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