Dec 11, 2012

Gender Lens Investing: a Designer’s Perspective

Tina Santiago's picture
Tina Santiago
User Experience Designer

Women were once kept at the peripheries of the financial system, and in some cases still are. But we live in a time where women are starting to earn more, to take more of a leadership role in companies and on boards, and to accumulate wealth and investing power. A new culture is being formed.

At last month’s SOCAP12 conference, I was introduced to Gender Lens Investing—the premise that when women are empowered as economic agents, social change accelerates and returns are multiplied.

In the Gender Lens Investing Panel, Jackie VanderBrug of Criterion Ventures explained to an audience of investors, entrepreneurs, financial advisors, fund managers, design thinkers, innovators, and students how new financial products—with this “lens” applied—are showing both social and financial gains. The presentation revealed how, with the help of design thinking, a group of investors is starting to break apart the assumptions upon which our financial institutions are built.

After the panel, I felt inspired to consider how design skills and thinking could help forward a movement. The design process challenges the things we hold to be true, and welcomes new ways of thinking and doing things. The potential of design in such a movement can be quite significant.

Following the panel, Suzanne Biegel of ClearlySo facilitated a workshop exploring what success looks like for the gender lens investing movement. Groups were formed around some burning questions:

  • How is the movement measuring success?
  • How can institutions and individuals be empowered to design a gender lens fund or program?
  • How can we go beyond the current silos inherent in the financial system?
  • How do entrepreneurs find the right capital?

The discussions and workshop activities revealed a new set of assumptions. The concepts of value, success, and ROI are being redefined by a new generation of investors.

This long-overdue shift in gender lens investing is evolutionary, not revolutionary. The financial system is simply catching up with the times, and the new roles men and women are transitioning into are worth looking at more closely because of their implications in the way we envision, design, and conduct business today and in the future.

See more from "Our Thoughts."