Gender: A lens and lever for investment

Author: Harpreet Kaur, UNDP Business & Human Rights Specialist, Published on: 16 December 2019

...While there has been considerable progress vis-a-via sustainable investing, gender continue to be ‘sprinkled’ or considered as a tick-box exercise. Even UNGPs were criticized for a lack of gender perspective, until Gender Guidance to Business and Human Rights was developed by Professor Surya Deva, Member of the UN working group on Business and Human Rights.

Despite, increasing evidence and acceptance that gender equity is good for investment, businesses and society, venture capitalists in 2017 invested $85bn in new companies of which 80 percent went to all-male teams, 12 per cent to mixed-gender teams and 8 percent to teams whose gender was not reported. One of the key reasons attributed to lack of investment with a gender lens is the lack of awareness and confusion among investors about how to incorporate gender into their process and analysis... The Gender Guidance calls for gender-responsive assessment to inform gender-transformative measures and remedies, providing a range of illustrations of how to put this into practice. The Guidance highlights the "differentiated, intersectional and disproportionate adverse impacts on women’s human rights” and calls for remedies and measures that are "capable of bringing change to patriarchal norms and unequal power relations that underpin discrimination, gender-based violence and gender stereotyping". 

Investors should note that gender responsive assessment should not be one-time exercise and assess the ways in which “State or business enterprise’s current and future actions or omissions might adversely affect women”. And to be able to do so, it is essential to collect sex-disaggregated data and analyze using experts on the subject... Gender responsive assessment should not be confused with ‘gender-audit’ and should be conducted over and beyond it. Similarly, it shouldn’t be subsumed in a larger human rights impact assessment. The investors should use the gender framework to screen investments based upon performance against gender benchmarks... 

Gender transformative measures should be aimed at achieving substantive gender equality by addressing systemic discrimination and undertaking proactive steps, including through special measures and affirmative action. The investors should encourage their investees to achieve substantive gender equality and eliminate all forms of discrimination, harassment and violence against women. Incentives could be provided to the investees undertaking steps to address systemic discrimination and violence against women... women inclusion shouldn’t be completed as a human resource exercise, but with a human rights based approach to ensure equality and dignity.

Gender transformative remedies calls to “offer a range of preventive, redressive and deterrent remedies”. The investors should use their leverage to identify appropriate remedies to address systemic as well as specific abuses.

Each investment has an impact on women, one way or another. Data indicates that investing in women is not only the right thing to do, but it is a smart business decision... Gender investment should not be seen only as a lens, but as a lever to pull for greater profits as well as impact.

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