Successful solutions to climate change must include investing in women as well as other minority groups, according to panelists at “Invest in Women, Affect Climate Change,” the most recent installment in Glenmede’s annual impact investing conference series in New York City.
Expanding the Arena for Women of Color
“If we create a green economy that has the same gender gaps that we currently have, we have not succeeded,” said Katharine Wilkinson, vice president of communication and engagement at Project Drawdown. “We need to bring a gender perspective across all of the climate solutions.”
The consensus of the event’s speakers was that investors who want to make a difference in both gender and environmental challenges must address them at the same time. Nathalie Molina Niño, CEO of BRAVA Investments, suggested that investors take an even more intersectional approach, incorporating other measures of diversity, such as race, as well.
“The last 15 years have shown us that women in investing have done, unfortunately, a lot of what the Silicon Valley bros have done—which is pattern matching and only investing in people who look like them,” Niño said. “That’s why in the world of gender-lens investing, historically, we have only invested in other white women, and women of color have been left out.”
While 2.7% of venture capital in 2017 went to women-owned businesses, only 0.2% went to women of color. The opportunity to invest in women of color is growing, however. Women are starting more businesses than men in today’s economy, according to Niño, and women of color start almost 80% of those women-led businesses. Some of these businesses aim to make a direct impact on the environment. For example, Jessica O. Matthews’s Uncharted Power uses proprietary technology to generate renewable energy. Among the company’s investors is Backstage Capital, which only funds companies founded by underrepresented groups, including women of color.
Exploring Gender and Sustainability within Gender-Lens Investing
None of the above is to say that men aren’t part of the solution. Solving both climate change and gender inequality will require all hands on deck.
“We need companies founded by men, founded by women, and companies that are truly going to move the dial,” Niño said. “The way that we move the dial is [by asking], ‘How much money are you putting into the wallets of how many women?’ Not five, not 10, not 100, but hundreds of thousands, and potentially even millions and billions.”
Wilkinson took a similarly big-picture view of the necessary solutions. Project Drawdown published Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warning last year, offering more than 100 initiatives that could make a measurable difference on climate change. Several of the solutions, such as expanding education for girls and improving access to birth control, require directly investing in women.
Research shows that global warming affects women more than it affects men. This is in part because women are more likely to live in poverty in communities less equipped to deal with climate change. More than 60% of those living in sub-Saharan Africa on less than a dollar a day, for example, are women, and women and children are 14 times more likely to die in natural disasters than men.
“This gender climate nexus is getting more and more attention, which is long overdue,” Wilkinson said. “Awareness is growing that women are critical agents of changes—and far too often are not present at the proverbial table.”
Watch impact investing thought leaders discuss strategies for tackling the biggest problems at the intersection of women and climate change. View a recording of “Invest in Women, Affect Climate Change.”