SIM TIG Week: Evaluation and Gender Lens Investing by Courtney Bolinson and Lucy Wakiaga

Hello! We’re Courtney Bolinson (Wisconsin) and Lucy Wakiaga (Nairobi), and we’re excited to kick off the Social Impact Measurement (SIM) TIG blog week. This week you’ll see blogs on topics related to impact investing, social finance, the sustainable development goals, social enterprises and more. Today, we’ll talk about gender lens investing (GLI), share the highlights from a recent GLI literature review, and point you toward some great GLI resources.

GLI refers to financial investment targeted at generating a positive gender outcome in addition to a financial return. For example, many gender lens investors invest in women-led businesses or businesses whose products or services support women’s equity in many facets of their lives. Others utilize gender-equitable investment practices throughout an investment process, such as sourcing and due diligence. You can find a more detailed definition of GLI on the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) website.

Evaluation is a critical part of GLI because it helps investors monitor whether their investments are actually achieving the gender-related outcomes they are aiming for. Just like any social programming, investors need frameworks and processes for articulating their gender-related goals, how their investments will achieve them (e.g., a theory of change or “investment thesis”), and ways to measure, use, and/or learn from the results of the investments.

Last year, we worked with EWB Canada to conduct a systematic literature review on GLI practices in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The review summarized types of gender outcomes of GLI in SSA, including increased workplace diversity, increased ownership of personal assets by women, improved quality of life for the households of women entrepreneurs, women’s financial independence, a shift in perspectives of the role of women beyond caregiving, improved levels of education for girls, improved personal empowerment for girls, improved livelihoods for girls, and safer communities for girls.

Lessons Learned related to measurement and evaluation in GLI:

  • We need more explicit application of transformative evaluation and research principles to ensure the effective inclusion of stakeholder perspectives and goals in GLI.
  • Much of the outcome information found in the review was anecdotal rather than evidenced. Therefore, we need more transparency regarding data collection and analysis methods used in GLI.
  • To address measurement challenges faced by small investors and organizations, partnerships and funding to conduct rigorous, longer-term research on the most prominent target outcomes of GLI would be beneficial.

Evaluators have an important role to play to encourage and support the takeup of these recommendations. In the coming months and years, we hope to see more evaluators working with investors to amplify the integration of a gender lens in their investment activities. 

Rad Resources

  • The William Davidson Institute released a summary of tools and approaches for GLI, including impact measurement.
  • IRIS+ is a catalogue of metrics and how-to guidance for impact investors (see this case study on how to measure the gender impact of investments using the 2X Challenge indicators and IRIS+).
  • The Criterion Institute’s paper on the landscape of gender metrics as related to GLI.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Social Impact Measurement Week with our colleagues in the Social Impact Measurement Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our SIM TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

1 thought on “SIM TIG Week: Evaluation and Gender Lens Investing by Courtney Bolinson and Lucy Wakiaga”

  1. Hello Courtney and Lucy!
    This work is important nowadays especially seeing as more companies led by women are emerging. It would be great to see more financial support towards companies like these that have worked hard to get to where they are in such an adverse field where most companies are led by men. Hopefully, investors will see a positive outcome from their investments.

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