ESG Investing

How Patience Marime-Ball Fights for Gender Equity

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Patience Marime-Ball boasts a long career in both the public and private sectors, but the founder and CEO of Women of the World Endowment (WoWE) calls her work in gender equity investing the joy of her life.

A former vice president at Mizuho Bank, Marime-Ball has more than two decades of experience across debt and equity financing, large-scale infrastructure, distressed assets, and venture funding. Amid the 2008 financial crisis, she began to recognize how few opportunities there were to invest in—and through—women.

That realization led her to learn more about the financial benefits of gender-diverse C-suite teams and gender equality in the workplace. She founded WoWE in 2018 to invest in assets through a gender lens, foregrounding women and girls as economic actors and solution-builders.

She collaborated with Glenmede to write a white paper, Gender Lens Investing in Public Markets: It’s More Than Women at the Top, to evaluate the relationship between business performance and five dimensions of gender equity.

Providing Leadership in Gender Equity

Serving on multiple boards and acting as a venture investor herself, Marime-Ball built the International Finance Corporation’s Banking on Women investment platform. So far, it has mobilized and invested more than $3 billion to finance smaller, women-led enterprises. In 2013, she worked with Goldman Sachs to costructure the first-ever debt fund focused on investing in women entrepreneurs via local financial institutions.

In the white paper, Marime-Ball and Glenmede found that gender equity goes beyond ensuring there are women in leadership positions at portfolio companies—it requires bridging historical gaps in gender inequality through holistic policies and programs. That includes access to benefits, such as pregnancy and maternity benefits; pay equity, including both median pay and pay by job; diversity of suppliers; and company cultures that nurture female talent, from anti-harassment policies to professional development programs.

That rings equally true when it comes to endowments and foundations, Marime-Ball emphasizes.

“Endowments and foundations have an enormous role to play in closing gender and racial disparities through their investments,” she said. “It is also the profitable thing to do.”

Gender equity goes beyond ensuring there are women in leadership positions at portfolio companies—it requires bridging historical gaps in gender inequality through holistic policies and programs.

Reaping the Benefits of Gender Equity

The white paper found that companies in the top quintile of pay equity, access to benefits, and career development programs experienced 2.6% greater returns and 1.2% lower risk of financial loss. Yet currently, only 28% of S&P 500 boards claim female representation, and even fewer include women of color.

“This is especially unfortunate given that we have incredible evidence that shows that diverse leadership and diverse teams create value across several metrics, including financial performance and low stock price volatility,” Marime-Ball added.

Recognizing How Impact Investors Can Help

Marime-Ball recommends that individual investors, endowments, and foundations prioritize their research to better understand the complexity of gender equity investing. They can also assess the gender diversity of the firms managing their money with an eye toward how many women are making investment decisions. She notes that, among all the companies they invest in, it is worthwhile to check for benefits, mentorships, or other programs designed to economically benefit women.

A company’s output provides another possible lens for analysis; investors can look at whether the products and services their portfolio companies provide benefit women and people of color. If impact investors cannot access enough information on these factors, they might demand data disclosures via investor statements and shareholder resolutions.

Fighting Today for a More Equitable Tomorrow

The fight for gender equity has been an important one for at least a decade, but it is arguably even more urgent today amid COVID-19. Although many women have shown exemplary leadership during the pandemic, women overall have lost out economically. This disparity underlines both the progress and challenges in improving gender equity.

“Gender equity matters now more than ever, because we know that women are losing the gains they’ve made in the workplace,” Marime-Ball said. “In order to beat back some of the challenges we face today and continue to grow the economy, we have to invest in everyone, including women and girls.”

Patience Marime-Ball has more than two decades of investment experience across capital markets, including debt and equity financing, large scale infrastructure, distressed assets, and venture stage opportunities. Previously, Patience was Principal Investment Officer and Global Head of Banking on Women at the International Finance Corporation (IFC) where she developed the Banking on Women platform; was responsible for the design of IFC’s Global Trade Liquidity Program; and co-developed the first-ever gender bond issued on the Uridashi market.

Patience serves on the Board of MIO Partners and is Vice Chair of the Board of the International Center for Research on Women. She is a member of Apollo Global Management, Inc.’s Impact Advisory Committee; serves on the Investment Committee of Align Impact; is an investor in Purple Arch Ventures; and is an early-stage investor with Golden Seeds LLC. She serves on several advisory committees, including As You Sow’s Prison Free Funds and Racial Justice Initiative and Emerging Sun LLC, a company she co-founded in 2005. Patience holds a JD from the Pritzker School of Law and an MBA from Kellogg at Northwestern University.

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