From the beginning, Criterion has played a significant role in establishing the field of gender lens investing. We began with (re)Value Gender, which built key research methodology that bridges gender expertise and finance expertise and creates a space for leaders to practice, build insight, and produce evidence. We looked for examples of bias in investments, where gender patterns were undervalued and, as a result, risks and opportunities missed.
More recently, we have aligned our mission as on organization not just with moving capital toward gender lens investments, but toward equipping people to participate in making the connections between gender and finance. In 2015 we released two reports: The State of the Field of Gender Lens Investing, which provided a review of the field and identified several pathways to move gender lens investing forward, and Gender Lens Investing in Asia which was a collaboration between Criterion and USAID.
Researching and writing these two pieces led us to prioritize finding proof points, that is, insights that would expand the imagination and the depth of thinking around how gender matters in finance. This is why we are now driving our research agenda forward while training individuals and institutions to see expanded possibilities for using finance as a strategy for social change.
For training and research to have long term impact, we most recently are working to shift the thinking of women’s studies programs and women’s and girls’ organizations, as well as to continue influencing financial institutions to integrate gender into their analyses, structures and processes. More than 450 people across four continents have taken part in our TOOLKIT on Gender Lens Investing, and our sponsored research platform, Gender Lens Investing and Market Risk, engages leading financial firms, including US Trust, Veris Wealth Partners and Cornerstone Capital.
In 2017, with Global Fund for Women and the Ms. Foundation, Criterion released a Blueprint for Women’s Funds on Finance as a Tool for Social Change. It is a comprehensive approach that looks at specific examples of how finance can be used to effect change related to domestic violence, gender and climate change, and the wage gap. Blueprint starts with the assets—the skills, tools and resources—that women’s funds have at their disposal to engage with finance as a tool for social change and outlines entry points where women’s funds can begin to engage finance, with the understanding that doing so requires collaboration between many actors and across multiple sectors.
Criterion actively engages Women’s Funding Network, Women Moving Millions and other philanthropic networks dedicated to advancing the rights of women and girls.
Criterion is widely represented at conferences on gender lens investing, leading sessions at SOCAP, From Ideas to Action and other events. At the 2017 Opportunity Collaboration, we were invited to lead the Affinity Group on Gender Lens Investing, where we facilitated conversations with philanthropists, social change leaders and impact investors on the state of the gender lens investing field and next steps for creating greater impact.