Our approach to gender equality

Our gender strategy focuses on how we can advance women’s economic empowerment throughout the investment lifecycle.

At the heart of building sustainable and inclusive businesses lies the need to advance gender equality through women’s economic empowerment.

We recognise the barriers women in our markets face, and we’re committed to using our role as an investor to help close the gaps between men and women, as well as demonstrating the social and economic value of investing in women to the wider investment industry.

Our strategy focuses on gender-smart investments and creating opportunities for women. It builds on our commitment to women’s economic empowerment in our 2017–21 Strategic Framework, where we recognised our role in contributing to Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality and said that we’d be looking for ways to create economic opportunity for women.

We focus on four key themes across the corporate value chain: supporting women’s leadership, improving women’s job quality, promoting access to finance and entrepreneurship, and applying a gender lens to products and services. By identifying ‘gender-smart interventions’, we aim to deliver social and economic value to the companies and markets we invest in, and to make a difference to women’s lives – whether by providing women in our markets access to decent jobs, or serving unmet women’s needs through the products and services we invest in.

Our work includes:

Supporting women’s leadership: We help investees to improve the gender balance of their organisations by connecting them to networks and specialist services who excel at finding strong female candidates across Africa and South Asia. We work with partners such as The Boardroom Africa , which provides the leading pipeline of female board-ready candidates in Africa. We also provide training to senior management to advance gender diversity in the workplace.

Gender diagnostics and action planning: We support investees develop the business case for women’s economic empowerment and create gender smart interventions that could help achieve productivity or other commercial gains.

Promoting gender diversity and financial inclusion: Using our knowledge about gender gaps in the market, we work to target investment products towards women entrepreneurs and individual clients. We are also partnering with the Financial Alliance for Women to increase workforce gender diversity by strengthening financial institutions’ internal activities that promote diversity and inclusion.

Designing gender-smart products: We support businesses to understand the needs of women and girls and identify opportunities through product or service design that cater to underserved female consumers while increasing business performance.

Setting industry standards: We are a founding member of the 2X Challenge, a commitment by DFIs from the G7 countries to direct $3 billion to investments that advance women’s economic empowerment by 2020, and its supporting 2X Criteria that provides a measurement framework for gender smart investing. We’ve also worked with the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) and its IRIS+ system to develop the 2X indicators, a new industry standard to measure the gender impact of investments.

Building capacity and sharing best practice: We founded and chair the Gender Finance Collaborative – a community of 16 development finance institutions working to advance gender smart investing practices. The group has developed practical guidance and built capacity through training and knowledge sharing.

Gender equality and women’s economic empowerment training: We deliver training for fund managers and companies on opportunities associated with gender in businesses, leadership and across value chains.

Since publishing our first Gender Position Statement in 2018, we have learned a lot about Gender and Diversity Finance. We have also made strides to strengthen our internal investment frameworks and achieve our inclusive investing goals for our 2022-26 strategy period. Our updated Gender and Diversity Finance Position Statement renews our commitment to women’s economic empowerment through gender-smart investing. It also sets out our ambition to invest for broader diversity outcomes over the next five years, including increasing the representation of black African-owned and led businesses in our sub-Saharan Africa portfolio.