Hannover, Germany – December 1, 2020: The COVID-19 pandemic has widened the gap in existing inequalities and obstacles to women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship, further endangering progress on a host of international development frameworks such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement. However, an expert panel on at the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit’s Digital Series found that applying a gender lens approach to investment can both accelerate gender equality and provide significant returns on investment worldwide.
Moderator Rana Ghoneim, Chief of the Energy Systems and Infrastructure Division at UNIDO, introduced the panel entitled ‘Industries Post COVID-19: Promoting Gender Lens Investing for the Global Economic Recovery’, noting that the burden of COVID-19 had fallen disproportionately on women due to social norms and cited the ‘United Nations’ Women Rise for All initiative’ to put women’s leadership at the heart of the international recovery effort. “To support these efforts, gender-responsive approaches like gender lens investing are essential in both the immediate response and longer-term recovery solutions to global challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Beau Seil, Co-Founder and Partner at Patamar Capital, and a gender lens investor, defines gender lens investing as “backing companies that have been primarily focused on women and girls” and pushing “for different practices within your firm, whether it’s equality within the workplace or board representation.” In his experience, many women entrepreneurs tend to underestimate their company’s potential growth but eventually end up outperforming other companies. Unlike an investor applying a gender lens approach, a traditional investor could easily overlook these opportunities. Seil highlighted that analysing gender patterns and gender biases will allow them to identify undervalued opportunities, resulting in better investment and portfolio management decisions, and improved returns for investors. “It’s actually creating better companies,” concluded Seil.
Dr. Chitra Rajan, Serial Entrepreneur and Advisor, Private Financing Advisory Network (PFAN), stated that the pandemic has affected women entrepreneurs in two ways: it reduced their economic independence and added to their workload. “Women are reluctant to invest because they don’t want to risk so much money and this pandemic has accelerated the situation, where they are a lot more risk-averse to the decision of getting into business,” said Dr. Rajan. She fears these negative effects of the pandemic will persist for decades. Invoking her personal experience of applying for credit, Dr. Rajan said that despite credentials, know-how and experience, businesswomen often found themselves subjected to sexist questioning. “We can very clearly see that there’s a bias in the mind of investors when they talk to a woman with a view to talking to a man,” she asserted.
Concluding, Rana Ghoneim stressed the need to address systemic vulnerabilities and inequalities affecting women, partnerships for women-led industrial initiatives, amplifying the data on the benefits of gender lens investing and for governments and multilateral organisations to provide targeted capacity-building initiatives for women.