I arrived in Tokyo last week to participate in the W20’s 2019 Summit ahead of the G20 Leader’s Summit, which Japan will host in Osaka June 28-29. It has been just six months since the W20’s Buenos Aires Summit, where our 2018 communique presented specific recommendations to the G20 regarding women’s labor inclusion, digital inclusion, financial inclusion, and, for the first time, rural development, which was of particular significance to the Argentine presidency.
The 2019 Communique
The Japanese presidency of the W20 has been working around the clock since the handover in November to prepare not only for our private summit, but for the public summit as well, which brought together more than 1000 members of the public, senior officials, and the media to discuss issues critical to women’s economic advancement. Their priorities for the communique included four pillars, three of which were carried forward from prior W20 convenings: labor inclusion, digital inclusion, financial inclusion, and governance. After numerous webinars, phone calls, and emails followed by twelve hours of deliberation in Tokyo, the W20 delegates produced a 2019 communique with seven primary and 15 sub-recommendations that include several important new developments:
The W20 calls on the G20 to accelerate access to investment and markets for women entrepreneurs, which is an expansion of the traditional focus on financial inclusion.
Women’s entrepreneurship has a prominent place within the financial inclusion pillar, with a call for the G20 to “develop a policy framework and action plan to strengthen the business, financial and digital capacity of women’s enterprises, including e-commerce” and a recommendation that countries increase public procurement contracts for women-owned businesses by a minimum of 10%.
For the first time, the communique includes language about measurement and accountability, specifically calling on the G20 to “develop mechanisms to monitor the implementation of G20 commitments on gender equality,” to “jointly review progress… for achieving gender parity in leadership and all levels of decision -making in the public and private sectors by 2030” and to “strengthen the mandate and capacity of national gender machinery to ensure that gender impact assessments are conducted on legislation, standards, and policies.”
W20 Co-Chairs Haruno Yoshida (left) and Yoriko Meguro presented the 2019 communique to Prime Minister Abe at the joint WAW! (World Assembly of women)/W20 Summit on March 24. It is now his job to carry that forward to the G20 Leader’s Summit, but the work of the W20 is not done. Now the delegates must return to our home countries to advocate for consideration of these recommendations with G20 officials (“Sherpas”) who work together to prepare the leader’s statement. This ground work is essential for ensuring that women’s interests are reflected in the final statement.
Gender Lens Investing at the WAW!/W20 Summit
I was delighted to be asked to participate in the gender lens investing panel at the WAW!/W20 summit. GLI is gaining in recognition in Asia, however, capital movement is still quite slow and mainstream banks and investors are hesitant to make major commitments. As a result, it was quite remarkable that our panel was standing-room only and there was a line of attendees that had to be turned away once the room was full. We also had a feature article in Yomiuri (here it is in Japanese), one of the top three Japanese newspapers, the following day.
I presented an overview of gender lens investing, the current state of the field as outlined in my report for the Gender-Smart Investing Summit, and then discussed the remarkable fact that private markets have grown from just two venture funds in 2000 to over 87 funds in 2019, 46 of which emerged in just the last two years. My fellow panelist Diana van Masdijk, CEO and Co-Founder of Equileap covered the public markets, where progress has been just as astronomical. Growing from just one fund in 1993 to more than 33, with 16 launching in the last two years. It is hard to overstate the importance of Equileap’s work in tracking and scoring gender commitments in public markets, which is helping investors create portfolios that move their money to companies that are not only socially responsible, but creating better business outcomes through gender diversity as well.
The panel also included Ben Colton from State Street, who spoke of their commitment to investing in companies with women in leadership positions, and executives from two Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) Ryan Brennan, Acting VP for the United States’ Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), and Tadashi Maeda Director of the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), who spoke about their respective commitments to the 2X Challenge and the important role their funds can have in leveraging greater investment in gender equality. It was a good mix of public and private investors as well as gender finance experts such as Diana and myself who could speak to trends and impact.
What can governments do?
Toward the end of the panel, I was given an opportunity to discuss what governments can do to incentivize gender lens investing. The following are the recommendations I presented that I am also proposing be included in the W20’s 2019 Menu of Action, which is the more detailed “how-to” document that we will develop to accompany the communique:
- Move public money into gender lens commitments using the DFI 2X challenge as a model.
- Require the collection of gender disaggregated data. Here I highlighted the UK’s gender pay gap reporting requirement as an example of how powerful transparency can be.
- Incentivize private investment through tax breaks and other regulatory approaches, such as the Opportunity Zones the United States has created in economically depressed areas.
- Provide “affordable, reliable, and safe access to mobile and internet services” which is another W20 recommendation in the digital inclusion pillar and is extremely important for women’s access to finance and markets.
- Use their convening power to bring together stakeholders from different asset classes, industries, and sectors to develop public-private partnerships and discuss solutions for increasing gender diversity in all facets of public and private sector activity.
What can we do?
We closed the panel with our final thoughts on what’s necessary to move the needle on gender lens investing. While I know that institutions and governments have the greatest leverage for creating a more gender equal world, I fundamentally believe it is up to us as individuals to demand these changes using the power of our voices and our wallets. We do not have to wait for others to act – we can be proactive about supporting gender equality in our own purchasing and investment decisions; we can educate ourselves about how our pensions and retirement funds are being invested and demand greater consideration of gender if that is not already the case; and we can use our power as shareholders to advocate for changes in corporate structures and behavior that lead to greater gender diversity throughout all of their activities. We all have power to demand these changes and that, I believe, will bring about the tipping point. As one woman I interviewed for the Gender-Smart Investing Summit said, “[Investors] aren’t going to dream it up if you don’t ask for it. They won’t do it unless there is demand.” Let’s all create that demand together and we can grow the gender lens investing market from US $1.4T to encompass the full US $80T of assets invested globally.