The Equity Triple Crown: how to hit a home run in Gender & Racial Equity Investing

ON January 21, 2021

An unfortunate CEO expressed what many other business leaders think (but have the sense not to say publicly): “I would love to promote and hire more Black people but there just aren’t enough qualified for the job.”

And there it is, prejudice and ignorance expressed in a nutshell. We simply have to do better. We have to open our eyes to all of the talent surrounding us and look outside our daily professional interactions. These talented individuals might not look like the corporate success archetype (white male of a certain age) but they bring tremendous experience and skills. Diverse teams do better (if you don’t believe me, look it up).

But convincing you that diversity, equity, and inclusion matters isn’t the point of this blog. Nor is educating you about systemic racism and gender bias or tips to be a good white ally. We have other blogs and podcasts for that.

This is HOW to express these values and gain access to this talent, through your investments.

At Cogent, from our perch working with foundations across the country interested in exploring innovative and prudent ways to put more of their assets to work for mission, we see many approaches to tackling systemic racism and gender bias. To approach the work, we’ve developed an approach we call the “Equity Triple Play” to help guide our clients seeking to add diversity to their investments. Many foundations, nonprofits, and corporations share these values and we’ve found this approach helps them get started fast, go deep, and see results quickly.

There’s no time to lose.

So, what is this “Equity Triple Play”? We look at gender and racial equity investing in three levels:
Investment decision-makers: who makes investment decisions?
Investee leadership and team: who runs and works at the companies investors choose?
Positive product or service: who benefits from the products or services provided?

Let’s unpack each level of “play”.

Going for the Triple Play is the goal and reviewing your investment through these three levels establishes a baseline. As a Little League Mom for 14 years, my son’s coach used to holler at the home run hitters, just get on base! Many times these powerful hitters struck out swinging for the fences and every now and then, they hit a home run. My son listened to his coach and, more times than not, found a way to get on base. And once he got on base, everyone knew that Danny would find a way to get home.

By all means, swing for the fences if you feel your organization is ready to seek the Triple Play. But it’s also ok to start by picking managers and investees with one or two levels of “play”, as that is better than a strike-out on diversity. Do it again. Keep score. Hold yourself accountable for results. This is how change happens.

The Triple Play gives you an avenue to start and that’s what matters. Get in the game.

Susan Hammel Bio: As a philosophy major who went to Wall Street, Susan Hammel translates between passionate social changemakers and expert accountants. In her role as CEO of Cogent Consulting, Susan is celebrating over 20 years as an impact advisor and is serving her sixth year as Minnesota Council on Foundation Executive in Residence for impact investing. Like in her youth, Susan remains optimistic and passionate about changing the world and enjoys downtime by the lake with her husband and the 4 adult children in their blended family, their partners, plus a recent addition of a beautiful grandson.

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What I'm doing now

Top of my mind these days is investing in line with Diversity, Equity, Inclusion values. Many institutions promised bold moves after George Floyd was murdered. Who is following through and doing this well? Racial justice requires new pathways for capital flows. I’m excited to be part of the McKnight Foundation’s Groundbreak Coalition, aiming to deploy $2b in flexible capital over 10 years to disrupt the status quo. In Minnesota we are a generous state, a charitable state, a hard-working state: we need to try new approaches to create that famous quality of life for all. We are leading a session on Place Based Impact Investing at the Mission Investors Exchange conference in Baltimore. Reach out if you’ll be there so I can include you in the informal MN meet-ups.