This International Women's Day, Invest in Women
Did you know that through “impact investing” you can positively impact women at home and abroad?
As we prepare to celebrate International Women’s Day, we here at Calvert Investments are thinking a lot about women’s long-term prosperity. Even as women around the world are making tremendous strides in higher education and professional advancement, they still lag far behind men when it comes to investment. This means that women’s futures remain considerably less secure than men’s. There are bright signs, though, that 2014 could be the year when all of that changes.
Executive Vice President
Calvert Investment Distributors, Inc.
President and CEO
Lynne Ford, executive vice president, Calvert Investments, reached out to Jenn Pryce, president and CEO of Calvert Social Investment Foundation (Calvert Foundation), to discuss women’s investing. Through the purchase of Community Investment Notes offered by the Foundation 1 , Calvert Investments directs a portion of select portfolios’ assets to what are known as community investments. These notes accrue to organizations providing affordable credit to those underserved by traditional credit markets, of whom a disproportionate number are women.
Under Jenn’s leadership, Calvert Foundation has anchored its work around the development of initiatives that combine a social issue with the power of impact investing, including the Women Investing in Women Initiative (WIN-WIN).
Lynne Ford: What is “impact investing” and why is it so appealing to women?
Jenn Pryce: You know, the definition of “impact investing” remains a topic of hot debate in the investment world. Personally, I find that the definition the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) sets forth aligns most closely to the work we do.
"Impact investments are investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. Impact investments can be made in both emerging and developed markets, and target a range of returns from below-market to market rate, depending upon the circumstances." [Jenn adds the word “measurable.”]
Impact investing is part of the broader sustainable and responsible investment approach, but impact investing has two distinct features: Impact investing specifically intends to address social and environmental challenges through the deployment of capital, and impact investors explicitly seek to measure their social and environmental impact.
Impact investing in general is gender-blind, but investing in women resonates more with female investors because they identify so strongly with the beneficiary of their investment. There is a heart connection involved that’s very important.
Lynne Ford : Why do women around the globe still need investment dollars intentionally channeled their way?
Jenn Pryce: There are two big issues at play here. First, there are structural barriers. Women disproportionately face financial-access barriers that keep them from participating fully in economic life, including fear, lack of awareness, thin or non-existent credit history, and lack of collateral. Some lenders also charge women higher interest rates because of greater perceived risk. The second major issue is cultural: in many parts of the world, women are caretakers at home, a role that is both undervalued and time-consuming. This makes it challenging for women to engage productively in society. We need more investments that change the lives of women.
Lynne Ford: Can most investors access something like Calvert Foundation’s innovative WIN-WIN portfolio through their financial advisors? If not, what barriers exist and how can they be removed?
Jenn Pryce: Yes, technically investors have full access to WIN-WIN through their financial advisors. Practically speaking, though, there is a need for more education among financial advisors. Right now, too few financial advisors understand impact investing thoroughly enough to advocate for it, to talk to their clients about relevant products, or to engage in a meaningful dialogue on the subject.
Lynne Ford: What are some examples of recent successes in the WIN-WIN portfolio of which you’re especially proud?
Jenn Pryce: Oh, we’ve seen so many wonderful outcomes! Some are international, and some are domestic. Internationally, we’ve seen huge benefits to women where we’ve invested in social enterprises that sell clean cookstoves. The smoke from open-flame cooking causes cancer and lung disease among millions of women and children every year. Clean cookstoves produce less smoke, and they also burn firewood more efficiently, meaning women spend less time collecting firewood, and more time pursuing income-generating opportunities or going to school.
In India, we’ve invested in the Sankara Eye Foundation. Not only do they provide free cataract surgery to the community, but they recruit and train women from poor families to work as paramedics in their hospitals. Women also comprise the majority of Sankara’s leadership team.
Here in the U.S., we’ve seen wonderful results from our investment in Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE), a non-profit community lender in Georgia whose mission is to help entrepreneurs launch, grow, and strengthen their businesses. Calvert Foundation’s $500,000 loan to ACE, enabled the organization to further expand its services to women-owned small businesses, and develop a more tailored investment initiative to especially benefit their female clients.
Lynne Ford: How should people situate this type of community investment within their overall investment goals and charitable-giving strategies?
Jenn Pryce: Community investment is an investment. Studies show that the long-term yield in impact investment assets are at market rate or above. With a long-term focus, impact investing provides a return to the investor and social good to the community. It’s important to note that while most impact investment products are still listed in the alternative-investment asset class, our WIN-WIN product is one of the few that’s listed in fixed income. Moreover, WIN-WIN is the only retail impact investing product available to U.S. residents that is focused on supporting organizations empowering women.
Lynne Ford: Does investing in women leave men out in the cold?
Jenn Pryce: Absolutely not! Investments that empower women empower all of us. When we invest in women, all boats rise. Empowering women to be more productive in their societies creates more economic activity in that country or community, and gets the economy working at its full potential. Everyone wins.
Lynne Ford: Is there anything exciting coming out of Calvert Foundation this year as relates to women’s investment?
Jenn Pryce: There is! We’re launching a second women’s initiative in the fall. The initiative will invest in social enterprises focusing on renewable energies and clean cookstoves in the developing world, continuing to deliver on the approaches that measurably improve women’s lives.
Clearly, there is abundant cause for optimism that 2014 will be the year for investing in, by, and for women. Happy International Women’s Day!
This article is one in an ongoing series. Read: 2014: The Year of Women's Investment? and (Really) Celebrate Women This Valentine’s Day. This article series is but one facet of Calvert Investments' commitment to serving women investors and financial advisors, and demonstrating how investing for principle and performance can change the world. Learn more about Calvert Investments and how we invest in women every day.
Lynne Ford heads Calvert Investments' distribution efforts including institutional and retail sales, product, marketing, and public relations. Ms. Ford has more than 20 years of experience in the investment management industry, including serving as CEO Individual Retirement at ING U.S. just prior to joining Calvert. Ms. Ford currently serves as a Director and Executive Committee member of the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI) and as a Director of Junior Achievement USA. She holds her bachelor's degree from Davidson College and a master's degree from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.
Jennifer Pryce is President and CEO of Calvert Foundation. Ms. Pryce brings nearly 20 years of finance and community development experience to her role. She previously served as Calvert Foundation’s U.S. Portfolio Manager and VP of Strategic Initiatives before being appointed Chief Strategy Officer. In that role Ms. Pryce led the launch of the WIN-WIN, the only gender-lens impact investment available to U.S. retail investors. Prior to Calvert Foundation, she worked with Nonprofit Finance Fund, Neuberger & Berman, and Morgan Stanley’s London office in the Investment Banking division. Ms. Pryce received a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Union College and a MBA from Columbia University.
At Calvert Investments, seeing the work of Calvert Foundation is one of our greatest sources of pride and an ongoing reminder of our larger mission. Please read more about Calvert Foundation’s work on their website, calvertfoundation.org.
The Calvert Social Investment Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, legally distinct from the Calvert mutual funds and Calvert Investments, Inc. and its affiliates. The Foundation issues the Community Investment Note, which is subject to certain risks, is not a mutual fund, is not FDIC or SIPC insured, and should not be confused with any Calvert-sponsored investment product. This commentary is not intended to forecast future events, guarantee future results, or serve as investment advice.
1. Fifteen years ago, Calvert Foundation was organized as a charitable and educational foundation for the purpose of increasing public awareness and knowledge of the concept of socially responsible investing. It has instituted the Calvert Community Investments program to raise assets from individual and institutional investors and then invest these assets in non-profit or not-for-profit community development organizations, community development banks, cooperatives and social enterprises that focus on low income housing, economic development, business development and other social and environmental considerations in urban and rural communities that may lead to a more just and sustainable society in the U.S. and around the globe.
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