Guest Post by Suzanne Biegel, Founder and Chief Catalyst of Women Effect and CEO of Catalyst at Large Consulting
This article first appeared on Women Effect.
“Over the years I have learned more and more about the opportunities associated with looking at women and girls in the picture, about the vast problems and inequities that needed to be right-sized, and about the consequences for society and the planet of not paying attention.”
So here we are. Launching a new website, a new community. Well, at least bringing a community that has been emerging for many years into a new form. If you are reading this then I know you’re interested in how you can invest to benefit women and girls, and by doing so, the world. And how investing in women and girls is smart.
Fifteen years ago, when I started thinking about how to deploy my own capital, intentionally to make a positive impact in the world, I started asking questions about the environmental, social, and governance factors in my investments. And I started investing in women entrepreneurs. My first angel investments were in women entrepreneurs, and I assumed that microfinance – the other logical place I saw to make a difference – was going to positively affect women. I learned a few things pretty quickly.
One was that this was going to be way more productive, and way more rewarding for me, if I could collaborate with others on this journey. The other was that I needed to learn how to look more deeply at what would have a positive effect on women and on the issues that I care about. I also wasn’t only ‘leading’ with women. I was also leading with health, and sustainable food systems, sustainable livelihoods, community impact, environmental impact, emerging technology. Women were there but they weren’t the only factor for me. Over the years I have learned more and more about the opportunities associated with looking at women and girls in the picture, about the vast problems and inequities that needed to be right-sized, and about the consequences for society and the planet of not paying attention.
I also discovered, over time, that to build a portfolio meant looking across all asset classes, and that angel investing and microfinance were only two places to look. I realised that my instincts about paying attention to women as business leaders, as consumers, in fact throughout the whole value chain, were as important as my passionate frustration about the state of the world for women and girls and the issues of the day.
I was so incredibly lucky to meet fellow travelers, women and men, who were thinking about this as well. People who were way ahead of me, and right beside me.
Fast forward to 2016. We’re at an unprecedented moment in the zeitgeist around women and girls and the role of fairness and justice in society and business. From East London (where I live) to East LA (not far from where I lived) to East Africa (where I’m lucky enough to be doing some work) the recognition that investing in women and girls is important, is rising. And the demand for capital is getting louder and more visible.
I have heard this from you over the past 8 years, as I have put more focus into this work. And I have heard it from my colleagues around the world, on our Advisory Council, amongst our founding community, at events where I speak. I see it in the fantastic array of what is being written and analysed and brought to market at a vastly accelerating pace. I can’t wait to see what’s next, to hear from you, to share with other investors and philanthropists, individual and institutional, men and women, who are part of the Women Effect.
Hear more from Suzanne at @WomenEffect.