Conversations about the intersection of finance and gender are gaining traction and generating exciting momentum for the field of gender lens investing. However, these conversations can be fraught with fear, including the fear of offending or saying the wrong thing.
The language that surrounds gender is powerful. Therefore, how gender is framed matters, and how we hear and interpret our conversations can impact how we do (or do not) collaborate. As a term, “gender” is often misunderstood and loaded with the following common assumptions:
We are only talking about women. Sometimes this results in a defensive stance that we are focusing on, and caring about, women to the exclusion of men.
That gender is binary and fixed. This is often implicit in the assumption that conversations about gender are conversations about women. Rather, gender is a fluid spectrum and a person’s gender identity and gender expression may be different from their birth sex.
We are talking about quotas to ensure equal representation of men and women in defined roles, and these quotas are not related to skill or experience. This stance often does not acknowledge the structural barriers faced by many people due to patriarchy, which oppresses many who identify or present as non-white males.
That all women are essentially the same. When we fail to address how gender intersects with other identities such as race, class or ability, we fail to appreciate how one woman’s experience may be different from that of others. This failure assumes that how we address the status of women will benefit all women or all genders.
There is not a single point of origin from which to have conversations about gender lens investing. Instead, people enter conversations from many different starting places, and therefore, learning to identify what conversation you are in can help navigate toward a constructive discussion where everyone is heard and respected.
The aim of this document is to help the reader in this.