By Luisamaria Ruiz Carlile, CFP®, Senior Wealth Manager

Once a year, the world celebrates “International Women’s Day.”  With much fanfare, we cheer on women and their contributions to the world.

But imagine the impact of sustained daily efforts to recruit, develop and promote women.

Consider the positive outcomes of intentionally and systematically directing capital to women-led enterprises or those specifically focused on benefitting women and girls.

And what if there was gender parity in executive leadership and at every other level of business and government?

The good news is that all of this can be furthered by institutionalizing these goals in our investment portfolios through Gender Lens Investing (GLI).

The Power Of Gender Lens Investing

GLI is an increasingly popular approach to allocating capital because it is having an impact both in the U.S. and around the world.

Gender lens investors evaluate opportunities based on how they support women’s leadership, access to capital, products and services for women and girls, workplace equity, addressing urgent gender justice issues, and increasing the knowledge, confidence and number of active women investors.

A growing number of investors support GLI’s fundamental premise that investing for gender equity can generate social and economic dividends that benefit everyone – both men and women. They also understand that greater gender equity at work may drive better business results and investment performance. This heightened demand has spurred growth in investment vehicles that integrate gender criteria and metrics.

In November 2017, Patricia Farrar-Rivas, Alison Pyott and myself of Veris Wealth Partners, working closely with Suzanne Biegel and the Wharton Social Impact Initiative, each released research findings quantifying the intensifying interest in GLI:  As of mid-year 2017, some $2.2 billion was allocated in 80 gender-based investment strategies across public and private markets.

Most of these investment vehicles were developed within the past five years, targeting specific goals. They include improving the lives of women and girls, steering capital to women-led enterprises, closing the gender pay gap, and adding women to corporate boards and senior management.

While many of these are accessible only to accredited investors, there is an expanding number of solutions available to everyone.

Information on the public market products are available on the Veris website here. They include six mutual funds, one Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF), one exchange traded note and a certificate of deposit. The latter, for example, is the federally insured Women and Children’s CD offered by the Self-Help Credit Union of North Carolina. Investors holding the CD help support women starting their own businesses or buying homes, and finance loans to child care providers and public charter schools.

While investors should consider the suitability of each investment product in a personal portfolio, the point is that today a simple brokerage account of modest market value can target investment dollars to generate both financial returns and social benefits. Aggregated across hundreds of thousands of investment accounts, investors are bending billions in the service of changing how capital markets value women and girls.

In the era of Women’s Marches and the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, individuals — from teenagers to seniors — are raising their voices. Their activism is driving the growth of gender lens investing and is beginning to change how our portfolios are constructed. While we still have a long way to go in realizing gender parity, aligning our wealth with our values is essential. Through gender lens portfolios, we can make progress, and we can make our voices heard loud and clear.