Credit: Benjamin Child
For many investees, be they businesses or funds, walking into the boardroom where the decisions are made and where money changes hands is the biggest hurdle to cross for securing crucial funding. Impact and gender-lens investors seeking funds are no different. And now, as the world shifts to rebuild in a post-pandemic economy, it’s more important than ever for businesses and funds that support women to secure much-needed investment and ensure that women across the globe are economically empowered.
But how can they make that happen when the investors they talk to are all over the spectrum? Some are new to gender lens investing, and some focus solely on investing in women. Telling the gender story in a compelling way is critical.
Kelly Roberts-Robbins, Associate Director at Palladium Impact Capital (formerly Enclude) is part of a team looking to solve that problem in a panel discussion at the 2021 GenderSmart Summit. The Summit, held virtually this year, brings together investment leaders and influencers, fund managers, venture capitalists, investment intermediaries, development finance institutes, and gender experts to untangle complex challenges and make new commitments to gender finance.
Roberts-Robbins will help start the conversation in an interactive session called “Making the Case, Telling the Story,” where participants will workshop the best tactics for pitching a deal to investors for something that will benefit women. Lead by Moderator Laurie Spengler, President and CEO of Courageous Capital Advisors, and joined by Marissa Drew, Simba Makerera, and Beau Seil, the session will give participants practical guidance on how to demonstrate that gender lens investing is, in fact, smart investing.
Building the Narrative Arc of Investment
“The focus is on how you actually get the money to move from an investor to a program or company that benefits women or girls,” explains Roberts-Robbins. “Part of that process happens before you even step into the room, training yourself on the ‘Why, Why Now, What, and How’ and knowing which of these things are best to dial up for that specific audience.”
When you walk into a boardroom, she notes, you have less than an hour to tell potential investors a compelling story, and you need to make hard decisions about where to focus your time in order to best hit on what that investors knows and cares the most about. It’s about meeting them where they are.
For many, this is simply ‘Sales 101.’ So, what’s different?
It’s learning to speak the investors’ language and understanding how to focus the conversation. As Roberts-Robbins explains, it’s a balance of dialing up or down those narrative points, while still making a business case. For some investors, it may be a matter of getting straight to ‘how’ the investment will deliver impact and financial returns, while others are more invested in the ‘why’ or ‘why now’ part of the story.
As for the ‘why now’ and why women, there has never been a more important time to invest in women and girls.
“By no means is addressing gender inequality a new thing. But we’re in an especially critical time to ensure that women are considered in building back better, both because we care about equality, and because building back better won’t work if women aren’t included,” Roberts-Robbins asserts.
Build Back Better with Women
Gender lens investing is proving to be especially important as much of the world looks towards creating the strategies needed for rebuilding more resilient economies in the wake of COVID-19.
“We know that investing in women is a good financial bet,” Roberts-Robbins says. “Women have stable companies, they grow their businesses at good rates and are clever risk-takers. Women are smart investments, they need capital, and they deserve it as much as any business.”
Empowering women in global economies is key to achieving the UN’s 2030 Agenda, particularly Sustainable Development Goal 5, which aims to achieve gender equality. At a more granular level, when more women work, economies grow, and women’s economic empowerment can boost productivity and increase economic diversification. But for many women entrepreneurs, women-owned businesses, and businesses that support women, they need an injection of capital to ensure their survival.
It often comes down to that mere hour or so in the boardroom that can make the world of difference for these businesses.
“We have the opportunity to continue to scale up investments in women but we need the right people in the room with the right skills to make sure that it happens. It won’t happen on its own and it’s on us in the industry to ensure that it does.”
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