Guiding the Equality Fund’s investment strategy | Part 2 | Playbook: Investing in Gender Equality

December 7, 2020

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.

PART 2: PEOPLE AND PARTNERS — GUIDING THE EQUALITY FUND’S INVESTMENT STRATEGY

By Bonnie Foley-Wong

Partnership and collaboration are essential to realizing every aspect of the Equality Fund’s mission—and that includes our investment program.

As a growing team of investment professionals, we work in collaboration with a mission-aligned and thoughtfully selected community of external partners. And while we all hold different roles, we are united by a shared purpose: unlocking the potential of capital to shift power to women, youth, girls, and non-binary people everywhere.

Our investment team

The purpose of the Equality Fund’s investment program is to guide the investment activities and the investment strategy for a $300 million contribution to the Equality Fund Initiative, in collaboration with our close partners, the Toronto Foundation and WUSC. The Equality Fund’s investment team is responsible for driving the overall strategy and vision of this investment program, including all of its core activities: investments, field building and capital mobilization, and exploring future opportunities in asset management.

To ensure that all of these activities are aligned with the Equality Fund’s mission, we are:

  • Researching and gathering information—refining our program strategy, looking for new investment opportunities, and exploring how to integrate a gender lens across all asset classes;
  • Conducting stakeholder consultations—receiving feedback and input that will inform our investment strategy and activities, and incorporating current issues affecting the lives of women, youth, girls, and non-binary people;
  • Engaging with investors and other investment ecosystem partners—expanding our investor community and building the field of gender-lens investing; and
  • Sharing knowledge, insights, and thought leadership on all aspects of gender-lens investing—innovating in the investment industry, finding allies in impact investing and celebrating diversity, equity, and inclusion.

I am excited to lead this ambitious program and build this team. I joined the Equality Fund as Head of Investment Strategy at the start of 2020, bringing over 23 years of finance and investment experience, with more than half of that in impact investing and gender-lens investing. Before joining the Equality Fund, I founded and led Pique Ventures, a boutique firm that invests in a diverse community of leaders building early-stage companies, with a particular focus on women-led ventures. I have gained first-hand experience of the hurdles facing women entrepreneurs and fund managers, especially when they are trying to access capital. I witnessed this in terms of the founders I invested in, but also in my own attempt to raise an impact-focused fund.

I came to the Equality Fund because I believe it holds enormous potential to break down these barriers in a lasting way, and I manage a stellar team who shares this vision, including Crystal Lo, Manager, Investment Strategy. Together, we are applying the lessons learned in the field and the insights gathered to build a multi-asset investment portfolio and change-making investment program.

Our investment partners

What sets the Equality Fund apart—which we hope will become the norm, not the exception—is how we form bridges amongst feminist activists and economists and allies with gender-lens investment expertise. In a future post, we will share more about how we are including the views and perspectives of feminist activists and economists as we evolve our strategy.

With a vision this ambitious, the Equality Fund is fortunate to count on key partners to help us implement our investment strategy.

Toronto Foundation, a trusted philanthropic leader since 1981, serves as our fiduciary partner. In this role, it invests the Government of Canada’s initial $300 million contribution into a multi-asset portfolio that is specifically designed to advance the Equality Fund’s investment goals. Investment strategies are guided by an Investment Policy Statement, drafted by Toronto Foundation in collaboration with the Equality Fund and other collective partners. To that end, investment strategies and the Investment Policy Statement are guided by the Equality Fund’s broader strategy, values, and vision, with input and perspectives from our stakeholders. We are appreciative that Toronto Foundation helps the Equality Fund build its capacity, given the ambition and scale of these efforts.

Toronto Foundation, with support from the Equality Fund team, chose Washington, D.C.-based RockCreek to provide services as its outsourced chief investment officer. RockCreek was selected after an international and highly competitive search for firms that combine world-class investment management experience with a deep commitment to gender equality and gender-lens investing. With their extensive impact investing and gender-lens investing experience, we are excited to be working with RockCreek and are delighted by their alignment and resonance with our strategy and mission.

At every step, the Equality Fund is in close conversation with our colleagues at Toronto Foundation and RockCreek, helping to ensure that critical decisions about investment strategies, managers, and products are closely aligned with our overall vision.

Royal Bank of Canada and Calvert Impact Capital are valued members of the Equality Fund Collective, having been with us from the start. They provided valuable input as we designed and built the investment program from the ground up. We are looking forward to continuing to work with them and we will share more in the future about many of the investment managers we are working with and their investment solutions and products.

We look forward to a time when taking the participation, needs, realities, and leadership of both women and men into consideration in investment decision-making is the norm, not the exception. This is an invitation to collaboratively and collectively shift capital and shift systems.

IN OUR NEXT POST — we will explore how we are engaging a diverse range of Perspectives, including those of women’s rights organizations and gender-lens investment experts from across multiple disciplines, to inform and advance our investment program.

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