In the past decade, the practice of impact investing – investing to achieve positive financial returns and positive social outcomes too – has gained great traction. Eager to align their investment capital with their social values, an increasing number of funds, businesses, and individuals are investing with the intention of doing well and doing good, too. Impact investing spans asset classes and while a great deal of impact investing occurs within the confines of private equity, impact investing in public equities has the potential to engage more investors, more capital, and more companies. For those making charitable donations in the hope of creating desired impact and change in the world, the rise of impact investing creates opportunities and questions: Is it really possible to use one’s investment capital—not just one’s philanthropic capital—to create positive impact? And, when it comes to public equities, how effectively can one align one’s investments and one’s philanthropy so that both are focused on the same impact goal? Specifically, what are the options for investing in public equities if one wants to make a positive impact on the lives of women?
Prompted by these questions, the Wharton Social Impact Initiative investigated public equity funds that suggest in their marketing and investment materials that they “invest in women,” support women’s leadership and gender equality, apply a “gender lens,” or simply consider gender as a factor in their analyses.