Gender lens investing: A growing strategy for cross-border impact investment

August 23, 2021 | 10:43
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The first non-profit training programme for investors, “Beyond 2021: Investing across borders and innovations” will officially kick off in Vietnam, targeting cross-border impact investment through gender lens investing across the Asia-Pacific.
Gender lens investing: A growing strategy for cross-border impact investment
Gender lens investing is the main topic of Beyond 2021

Beyond 2021 will take place over the course of three days, from September 8 to 11 this year and focus on the markets of Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Pakistan. The programme aims at providing angel investors across South and Southeast Asia with a broad spectrum of gender lens investing (GLI) opportunities as an alternative path to diversify and leverage cross-border capital allocation.

“Beyond 2021 expects to build up a community of cross-border investors that partially give priority to GLI over the countries to boost post-pandemic economic recovery,” said Nguyen Dang Tuan Minh, CEO and co-founder of KisStartup, representative of the programme’s organisation board.

A fresh concept, GLI is sometimes misunderstood. Instead of simply giving priority to women, it focuses on viewing diverse aspects of gender equality in business’ operations before making investment decisions.

GLI helps alleviate gender inequalities and extend access to capital for women entrepreneurs in a male-dominated market. By financing women-led businesses, investors can facilitate positive social impact while earning great returns.

“There are three gender lenses that we usually use. The first is that at least one founder needs to be female. The second is that women need to be sole or disproportionate beneficiaries. The third gender lens is looking at women as a full demographic, whether they are consumers, whether they are traffic, whether they are a mobile workforce, whether they are distributors,” said Virginia Tan, founding partner of Teja Ventures, co-founder of She Loves Tech, and founder of Lean In China.

According to PitchBook, a venture capital, private equity, and mergers and acquisitions database, only 9 per cent of venture capitalists are female while less than 2.3 per cent of investment flows in America and 2.2 per cent in Europe go into women-led business. However, Project Sage 3.0 of Wharton Social Impact Initiative reported that firms investing with a gender lens raised approximately $4.8 billion in 2019, more than double the amount raised in 2018.

Even though GLI investors still encounter challenges, the opportunities of scaling up and growth have motivated them to take up new investment approaches, especially in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The three countries accounted for 80 per cent of GLI deal volume in the region, 85 per cent of which came from angel investors, according to a report co-published by Investing In Women and Value For Women in March.

Capitalising on these understandings, the Beyond 2021 programme consists of four stages, including the Beyond 2021 Summit kick-off event, calling applications, main training programme, and demo day. Its objectives are to fuel local and cross-border co-investment with investors around the world and to connect investors with women-led ventures in South and Southeast Asia to increase capital access and financial equality. At the same time, a global community of like-minded investors can gather to create impact through early-stage investment.

“This programme provides multiple benefits for investors. Participants will be seeing a couple of fantastic investment opportunities of highly representative potential companies that are not only cross-border but also women-led. Investors could learn the tips and tricks and the how-to process that enable them to benefit from investment in women-led ventures that actually show financial returns and also do good for their communities,” said Keith Ippel, programme lead of Beyond 2021, co-founder and CEO of Spring Activator.

By Van Anh

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