“But I’m not sure how that’s truly material.”
This is a refrain we hear constantly when we talk to people in finance about gender. Discussing whether or not something is “material” is a short-handed insult meant to dismiss and undermine. It suggests that, while we might think including a gender analysis in financial analysis is important, they unfortunately just don’t feel the same way. We might as well get a pat on the head.
We remain unfazed. We in fact do think that gender considerations are material to finance.
We believe that understanding gender patterns in economic activity can lead to better investments and that the creation of financial products and vehicles that reflect an understanding of the gendered nature of the world can create new investment opportunities.
We think this is especially so when we consider the ubiquity of gender-based violence in our world. As one form of gender-based violence, violence against women and girls knows no boundaries.
One in three women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. This means everyone on the planet is touched by this epidemic. Literally everyone.
And… the costs of gender-based violence are serious and far reaching. The global annual cost in lost productivity, support services, and law enforcement is estimated to be in the trillions. Gender-based violence impacts people’s health and well-being, the economy, and the wider society. This is not just a matter of lost productivity. It also correlates with broader social instability.
How is this not a risk for finance?
It wasn’t long ago that climate change fell in this bucket as “immaterial” to finance. However, that has shifted and now analysts follow changing weather patterns with great interest. Climate change is regarded by companies as both an internal and external risk, affecting all industries, all sectors and all geographies. Companies are actively responding to those risks.
How can analyzing gender patterns, especially patterns related to gender-based violence, be seen in a similar vein? How can finance respond?
For example, what if gender-based violence decreased by half over the next five years? How would one invest differently today if we saw that as a possible future scenario? How does that vision of the future create a different understanding of the risk gender-based violence presents today?
Over the next five years, Criterion Institute will direct one third of our resources towards this effort. Criterion’s goal is to move US$10 billion in investment capital to strategies to reduce gender-based violence. To reach our goal, we will do three things:
- Build a coalition of investors and aggregate US$1 trillion in intent to invest in solutions to gender-based violence
- Engage 1,000 individuals and 100 organizations with expertise on gender-based violence to design appropriate solutions
- Mobilize fund managers to respond to demand for products that address gender-based violence
To do this effectively, we see it as crucial to engage directly with those affected by gender-based violence, and with individuals and organizations that have worked long-term on these issues.
As we #PressforProgress, we hope to motivate and unite gender-based violence experts, asset managers, and asset holders to use their individual power and expertise in a collective effort to direct how finance can be used as a tool to address gender-based violence.
In short, we need all of you, our allies, at the table. And we need your help in expanding our networks to include those closest to the fight. Efforts to address gender-based violence span all of Criterion’s work and can bring together those who have worked exclusively in our gender or church work to date.
On this International Women’s Day, we’re issuing a call-to-action: walk with us as we push to use finance as a tool to effect change on gender-based violence.
Let’s reimagine the possibilities. Let’s make this material.