Globally, women and girls are underserved and underrepresented by the economic systems they navigate.
Numerous barriers are present for women and girls as they seek financial inclusion, technological inclusion, access to education, access to fair work and additionally, leadership opportunities in the workplace. Recognizing that this is a systemic issue, EWB as an Impact Investor, sought to consider these disparities in developing and implementing its approach to the investment of early stage ventures in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).
In seeking to better understand how to incorporate a gender lens as an early stage investor, EWB with financial support from the Mastercard Foundation, undertook a pilot to support early stage ventures in SSA to integrate a gendered lens for business and social impact. This project saw a number of successes and challenges. It also brought forward a number of key takeaways and lessons, detailed within this report, with the hopes of bolstering shared learnings and further fostering conversation about Gender Lens Investing (GLI) in SSA.
This report will outline the process EWB took to implement a gendered lens with four portfolio and pipeline ventures. This report will highlight a case-study for each venture, providing real life suggestions and tools that can be used by other impact investors and entrepreneurs seeking to integrate their own gendered lens approach. While this project was focused on the relatively early stages of applying a gendered lens, it generated key lessons and building blocks that EWB intends to use to invigorate its work moving forward. Through this report, a clear and iterated process was identified for working with ventures in a way that was flexible to fit the unique needs of an early-stage business. This process can be duplicated and fine-tuned to fit other investors’ needs, and can also help lay out a guideline for entrepreneurs or ventures seeking to integrate this lens on their own.
Key lessons learned through this pilot which will be explored deeper throughout this report are: the importance of having an internal gender champion within the venture, tailoring the approach to gender inclusion for each unique venture, and navigating the balance of an in-person and virtual engagement plan. Gender lens investing is an exciting but still nascent investment approach. Both EWB and the four ventures supported have developed a strong base in operating with a gendered lens, but know this work is far from over and all will continue to mobilize action through their operations in SSA with a gendered lens for social and business impact.