What’s Up With Women and Impact Investing?

ON January 3, 2018

I was inspired; I was impressed; and I was informed by the High Water Women Foundation’s 5th annual Investing for Impact Symposium in New York City. There’s something thrilling about being in a room full of high powered women working in finance that gave me hope for the world.

When I returned to Minnesota, I was delighted to see Impact Alpha’s editor, David Bank’s question about the leadership role women are playing in transforming finance, “What is it about women and impact investing?” 

Our leadership in this burgeoning movement doesn’t surprise me at all. Women have always been hybrid thinkers because we’ve always had to juggle competing priorities. After managing child rearing, aging parents, pet care, household responsibilities and careers (usually all at the same time), we’ve become masters at achieving multiple priorities at once.

For example, when my children were small I achieved the “Four-fer”, accomplishing four important priorities at the same time. For example, when my primary task was getting the kids to elementary school on time, I approached this in the following way:

  1. We walked so we all got exercise.
  2. I brought the dog so she got her walk.
  3. On the way home, I called my mother.
  4. For a bonus, we took a path through the woods so we got nature time.

Every working mother can relate, I’m sure.

Across the country women in philanthropy are leading the conversation about impact investing. MacArthur Foundation’s Debra Schwartz, F.B. Heron’s Dana Bezerra (By the way, I’m so excited to see her named President Elect!), Case Foundation’s Rehana Nathoo, Kellogg Foundation’s Cynthia Muller, and so many others are pushing us all to think differently about how we use capital to impact the world.

In the Twin Cities, the McKnight Foundation’s Kate Wolford and Elizabeth McGeveran are championing new ways of thinking about fiduciary duty and local CFA holders are leading the way with new impact investing strategies including Northwest Area Foundation’s Investment Director, Amy Jensen, Minneapolis Foundation’s Investment Manager, Karen Florez and HRK Foundation’s CIO, Rochelle Gunn.

Women leading change matters, and our impact is visible. There are more and more impact investing initiatives that invest in and empower women. From the explosion of Gender Lens Investing—which emerged from the SRI practices pioneered by Amy Domini—to Calvert Impact Capital’s Women Investing In Women Initiative (WIN WIN)—which invests in women globally—to InFaith Community Foundation’s new WomenInvest fund, there are more opportunities now than ever to invest in women.

Increasingly women are making economic decisions for their families, companies, and communities. Bringing a woman’s view to impact investing gives me hope for a transformed investment culture; one that values the full impact all investments make.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and especially your four-fers. Tweet me @susan_hammel or email [email protected] to get in touch.

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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.