Social Inclusion & Human Rights

Where Is the Private Gender Lens Market? 4 Takeaways from Project Sage 3.0

In a short period of time, investing that aims to generate both financial returns and a positive impact on women has experienced considerable growth. The Wharton Social Impact Initiative has closely tracked that growth through its Project Sage reports. Its most recent installment, Project Sage 3.0, analyzed 2019 data to provide an analysis of gender lens investing in structured private equity, venture capital, and private debt funds.

“While we’re still a nascent field, the report shows we’re also maturing,” says co-author and gender lens investing pioneer Suzanne Biegel. Here are four highlights from Project Sage 3.0.

1. The Number of Funds Continues to Grow

The report included 138 total funds, 58.6% more than the previous year’s 87, and an increase of 138% from the 58 funds in the first report. What is more, almost half of the total funds were launched in 2019. The report also revealed some new fund categories, including two funds invested in real estate with a gender lens.


To learn more about gender lens investing, read Gender Lens 2.0: Uncovering Deeper Measures of Gender Equity.


2. Total Capital Raised Has More Than Doubled

Among firms that allowed the researchers to publish their numbers, the total amount of capital raised by gender lens investing funds was about $4.8 billion—more than double the $2.2 billion uncovered in last year’s report. According to Biegel, the real total is likely higher, since some funds chose not to report the amount raised. She estimates the number to be over $5 billion.

Project Sage 3.0 also found that the funds in the current crop were significantly larger than their earlier counterparts. While the first study reported few funds over $100 million, around 20% of those analyzed this year hit that threshold. “It’s a big shift, since it allows institutional investors that can’t look at smaller funds to participate,” Biegel says. “There’s now more for them to look at.”

3. Gender Lens Investors Are Widening Their Focus

For the first time, this year’s report looked at whether racial and ethnic diversity played a role in funds’ focuses. Forty-five percent of funds said they take other factors into account, including racial and ethnic diversity (24.6%) and LGBTQIA diversity (7.2%).

While 80% of investments cited in the first report targeted investments in North America, in the latest survey just 38.1% pointed to that focus. Other targeted geographies included Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America.

Project Sage shares the data investors need to make better decisions.

4. Many Are Still First-Time Funds

Some 61% of funds were first-time funds, continuing a trend found in previous reports. While the partners were not necessarily new fund managers, this was either their first fund with a gender focus or they had not described their fund as gender-focused before. “Even though this may have been their first gender lens fund, they are still really experienced fund managers,” says Biegel.

Ultimately, Project Sage does more than document the field’s momentum—it contributes to that growth by sharing the data with investors who can use it in making investment decisions.

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