Veris Interview Series: Dr. Ruth Shaber, Gender Lens & Impact Leader

Full Transcript 

Lori Choi, CFA: My name is Lori Choi. I’m a Partner and Senior Advisor at Veris, and I’m also a co-founder of WISE or Women Investing for a Sustainable Economy. We’re a community of over 3,000 women focused on advancing women’s leadership and sustainable and impact investing. 

I’ll be leading today’s interview with Dr. Ruth Shaber. Our agenda today will include introductions to Veris, for those of you who don’t know us, and Ruth’s background – covering her career in medicine and her journey to starting Tara Health Foundation. And her book The XX Edge, and what she’s been up to lately with the Diverse Investing Collective. We’ll also have time for some audience Q and A at the end. So look forward to hearing your questions.

I wanted to share a little bit about Veris for those of you who may not know us well. Veris is an independent, woman-led financial advisory firm. We help families and nonprofit organizations align their investments with their values, and we work with clients across the US. And our vision is to create an equitable, just, and sustainable world. And our mission is to use financial markets to direct capital to sustainable and regenerative endeavors.

Veris’s co-founders were pioneers, starting in the field of values-aligned investing in the nineties, and then came together in 2007. Inspired by their passion for social and environmental activism, they created one of the first impact focused financial advisory firms in the United States. And today we have deep investment capabilities across public and private markets and build client portfolios with up to a hundred percent focus on achieving impact in the context of our clients’ financial goals.

Veris launched our gender lens investing research in 2012, which sparked a series of thought pieces and collaborations with other gender lens investing catalysts to track asset growth in the industry and more. Big thanks to Veris’ Gender Lens Investing team past and present, especially Alison Pyott and two who have retired from the firm – Luisamaria Ruiz Carlile and Patricia Farrar-Rivas, our founding CEO.

Veris works on behalf of clients who invest in multiple impact themes with an intersectional approach, because we know that many of these issues are related. And several years ago we expanded our core impact investment theme of gender lens investing to include racial and gender equity, which I think we’ll talk about with Ruth as well in her journey. Veris’ other core impact themes include climate solutions and the environment, community wealth building, sustainable and regenerative agriculture. And these are just some of the most common themes our clients prioritize. But we really work individually with each client to customize based on their own priorities.

Today’s conversation is one we’ve been looking forward to for a long time, and we are thrilled to lift up the work of one of the impact investing industry’s leading diverse investing catalysts in Ruth. 

I first saw Ruth presenting about Tara Health Foundation in New York City years ago, and remember thinking to myself how unique of a perspective that she brought, having been a successful OB GYN and then senior executive at Kaiser Permanente to then and now, speaking to financial professionals and investors alike. She’s on the leading edge of funding evidence informed programs through Tara Health Foundation to promote women’s wellbeing and opportunities. And she’s done this on both the grant making side and the investing side, which has been really wonderful to learn about. 

She’s also the co-founder and board chair of Rhia Ventures, a collective of foundations and investors committed to bringing new types of capital to the reproductive health field. And, alongside co-author Patience Marime-Ball, she recently published the book The XX Edge, Unlocking Higher Returns and Lower Risk which serves as the basis for her new initiative, the Diverse Investing Collective, that aims to increase the assets managed by gender diverse and racially diverse teams to 33% by 2033. Welcome, Ruth. Thank you so much for being here.

Dr. Ruth Shaber: Thank you, Lori, and thank you for that lovely introduction. I want to thank you and Veris for all the work you do. You have also been tremendously important in the field, and have been breaking new ground for quite a while, so very grateful for all that you do.

Lori Choi, CFA: Thank you so much. Jumping in on your background in medicine – how did your work in obstetrics and gynecology lead you to your current work with Tara Health Foundation?

Dr. Ruth Shaber: There is a through line, actually. I had a wonderful career in medicine as an obstetrician gynecologist with a special interest in reproductive health. But I also had a lot of executive positions at Kaiser Permanente, and my most recent job there was overseeing the national population care programs. Which means that my responsibility was translating evidence and medical research into actual practice. So this idea of evidence-based medicine and designing systems, systems engineering and performance improvement. And when I left Kaiser, I was determined to use all of these principles in my new career in philanthropy and impact investing. 

Among the other important things I learned in my career in medicine, is that who controls capital matters and in women’s health there’s been such an absence of funding and prioritization of women’s health innovation that it really is a desert for innovation, and whether it’s trying to get a new grant or lobbying your senior executives for funding for some new proposal. It was clear that if you don’t have the budget you can’t get anything done.

And then my other commitment is to women’s health, and really understanding how central women are not just to their to their own wellbeing and their own families, but that when women thrive, and particularly when women can control the size of their families, that their immediate communities and larger communities also thrive, and how vital reproductive health is to overall societal impact.

Lori Choi, CFA: I know we’re gonna touch on some of the specific studies and research, but in the book you mentioned some examples that were really poignant – like the crash test dummies or the clinical trials that didn’t include women. Could you tell us a couple of these stories?

Dr. Ruth Shaber: Sure. To follow up on that theme about who controls capital matters, one of the stories that comes out in the book is that women’s health has been dramatically underfunded for decades. And it shows up in ways that, for instance, women weren’t included in clinical trials until really the nineties even, then there was very little innovation. We’re still using the same birth control methods now that were invented in the 1960s. It wasn’t until Bernadine Healy became the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the seventies that she mandated that all clinical trials had to include women. We moved towards the norm of – you couldn’t assume that women’s bodies behave the same way as men’s bodies, and it was because she controlled a budget of $7 billion dollars that she was able to to make that kind of transition in medicine. 

The crash test dummies example is another great one, where for most of the car safety innovations that we all rely on, like seat belts and head restraints and airbags, they were based on testing that was done with male modeled crash test dummies. And we all know that women have different bodies, and their center of gravity is different. The tests that were done showed what was safe for a male crash test dummy wasn’t necessarily safe for a female crash test dummy. So that’s another example. And the reason why we have that button in our car is to turn off the airbag on our passenger seat is because it’s dangerous for shorter people who might be sitting in that passenger seat, and it’s often a woman. So those are the kinds of problems that we’ve generated because we haven’t taken gender into consideration when we develop new products.

Lori Choi, CFA: Wow! Fascinating. And just by taking gender into consideration, it really is helping all people (by protecting) shorter people, children, and others. So yeah, I love that with those insights that you brought out. Thank you. So how have you translated that into your approach with Tara Health foundation? And what is your vision for the future?

Dr. Ruth Shaber: We started Tara Health Foundation in 2014. And what makes it a little bit different from most family foundations in the United States is that it’s 100% mission aligned, which means, in addition to our grant making, which is largely based on women and girls, we also have a very strong racial equity focus. We think about every single asset class. So we have a strategy in the private markets and debt and public markets. And so we’re thinking about all of the assets of the foundation, not just our grant making and how we can have a social impact.

We also are interested in a financial impact. So while we have a hundred percent mission aligned portfolio, we expect market rate returns and we’re seeing market rate returns. We often use our grant money to help build the field of impact investing. So whether it’s creating new tools, or you mentioned Rhia Ventures in my introduction, we will use grant money to help build nonprofit infrastructure that allows us then, to invest better.

Lori Choi, CFA: I loved how on your website, you’re so transparent with your grantees and your investments. And you’ve certainly been a catalyst to many groups in our industry. How did that lead you and Patience Marime-Ball to writing The XX Edge and what impact do you hope the book will achieve?

Dr. Ruth Shaber: Patience and I started working together in 2019, and, believe me, neither one of us expected to ever write a book. It certainly wasn’t on my radar screen, but a lot of the work that we did was running workshops and speaking quite a bit about gender focused finance, and we noticed over and over again that we were almost always speaking to the choir and if there were mainstream investors in the audience or men in the audience. They didn’t really understand why gender finance was important to them.

And we noticed it over and over again, and we also noticed that the women who were running funds or entrepreneurs or were deep in the gender finance space. Were so frustrated that they in fact, were often competing with each other for relatively small capital allocations, or carve-outs from some of the big institutional investors, and we recognized that we needed to do what we called, “jump the fence”, and we needed to tell the story of gender finance to mainstream investors, and particularly frankly to white men who were assuming that it didn’t have anything to do with them. And, just like you said Lori, when you innovate and when you create products that are focused on women, you actually improve outcomes for everybody. 

And the other thing that drove our decision to write the book was that we were noticing in our own portfolios, both in my case at Tara Health Foundation, and for Patience in her experiences in the finance industry, when you have a gender focus on your portfolio, it tends to outperform the market. And it was clear at Tara Health Foundation that we were outperforming the market, not in spite of having a hundred percent gender focus, but because we had a hundred percent gender focus. And that’s what really drove us to start doing the research and trying to understand…Was this just our own experience, or was it something that played out across the industry?

Lori Choi, CFA: Before this call, we talked about how performance in the short term in public equity strategies, whether gender, focused or not, are not immune to short term fluctuations, like the ‘magnificent seven’ – or the ‘magnificent five’ now that Tesla and Apple haven’t done as well. Environmental strategies certainly have had their challenges and volatility in the last 40 few years, but I love that you’ve seen positive outperformance. And even in the research specifically that you found I’d love to talk about that, too, because it’s not just one research study. It’s so many that you were able to find and identify. And I’d love to hear a little bit more of that.

Dr. Ruth Shaber: Sure. As a medical scientist and somebody who really built my career on evidence based medicine and evidence based practice, I think what scared me the most about starting to write this book is that we would be perceived as cherry picking – that we’d only pick the best studies, that we wouldn’t really tell the whole story. And I’ll be honest that that is not the case that we saw consistency across all asset classes. Sometimes there would be some comparisons that would be neutral. That would show that when men and women, or gender diverse teams and all male teams performed equally as well, but almost always when research had been done that compared when women are at the finance table or not at the finance table, that when women were there there was better – not just financial performance – but also better social impact as well. 

I can give you some examples. It’s interesting because a lot of the history of gender finance really started with microfinance. I’m sure all of your listeners know that when you lend women particularly small, you know, subsistence farmers or people who have really very little wealth. To begin with, women tend to use the money more prudently. They’ll invest in their family if they make a profit and it really tends to benefit a community at large. They’ll send their kids to school (for example). I think that evidence is really sound. But as you move away from microfinance into things like women who are small business borrowers, they are much less likely to default on a loan. They’re much more likely to pay their debts back. And they’re much more likely to be loyal to their banks. Women who are entrepreneurs and starting companies, if a new company had a female founder, those companies were 63% more likely to outperform all male teams over a 10 year period.

In general, when there are teams that have both men and women in senior leadership, they’re 21% more likely to see our performance relative to their peers that don’t have gender diversity. Female CFOs deliver a 6% increase in profits and an 8% stock bump compared to previous performance with male predecessors. When women run hedge funds they tend to outperform by a 6% margin. We found it over and over again. 

A lot of people are probably familiar with women on boards, and how that strengthens companies. So it was extremely consistent. And the other thing we found is that women, when they’re in financial leadership positions, tend to bring more social impact with them. It may not be their first priority, but, for instance, women who are on senior leadership teams of companies are more likely to consider environmental impact or more likely to consider what are the healthcare benefits that we’re providing for our employees. Those sorts of things equate to what we see in microfinance, that when women have access to capital, they’re more likely to support their families in their communities leading to both financial and social impact. What we learned in our research is a really interesting and consistent rationale for why gender would outperform. What we found is that women tend to be more collaborative. Women tend to take the long view, so they’re less likely to sacrifice short-term outcomes for the long term, and they look to the long-term outcomes instead.

And interestingly, it’s often said that women don’t take risks, and it’s actually not true. Women do take risks, but they take risks in different ways, and I think one of the best ways to understand this is in the gambling literature, and that we know that men are much more likely to be influenced by social pressure to take chances, whether it’s around the craps table or in a boardroom.

And if you think about what it might look like if there’s all men sitting around a table trying to decide if they’re gonna acquire a new company or take some major business risk. And the type of social pressure really kind of looks the same as what you might see around a craps table in Vegas. Women tend to take a more measured view of risk taking. They tend to consider more options, and they tend to be much less influenced by social pressure, to take chances.

And the last thing that we uncovered in our research was this idea of proximity to problems. And this is a really important thing which we’ve really brought into a lot of the work that we’re doing now at Tara Health Foundation, that one of the reasons why women make good financial decision makers is because they tend to be closer to the problems that we’re trying to solve. 

Whether it’s innovation in the climate space, or the care economy, or education, or healthcare, women tend to be the ones who are the most impacted by those problems, and they also tend to be the frontline workers. So, for instance, in the healthcare industry, 85% of the healthcare workforce is female, 85% of the healthcare decisions are made by women, whether it’s for themselves or for their family. In education, we know that women tend to be the frontline workers and teachers. So over and over again, we see that women are the ones who are in the field, and actually are much more likely to bring innovative solutions to the table. And it’s not that men aren’t also capable of having innovative solutions and seeing the impact of these sorts of problems. But when women aren’t there we really miss out on creativity and real world experience that’s extremely relevant if we’re going to be innovative and find disruptive new ways of doing business.

Lori Choi, CFA: Wow! There is so much packed in there. I love it. And so what do you think is the reason why it’s still a well kept secret. How can we shift that and make it more of a well known understanding that it’s good investing, you know, just like impact investing is now good investing, you know, thinking about non-financial factors that are material to a company’s bottom line. Just makes good business sense. What do you think?

Dr. Ruth Shaber: Well, I’m an observer of the finance industry, and you’ve been deep in it for a long time, so you certainly know as well as I do that there’s biases that the status quo, you know, folks who’ve had the same financial advisor or manager for decades in their family. It’s perceived that to change the way you’re making your financial decisions is a risk.

And so you know, one of our hopes is that this book is going to help to change that paradigm and change and overcome the bias that we all have. We all have biases. 

Patience loves to tell the story of two equally experienced, equally successful women entrepreneurs who want to start a venture fund. And they’re pitching their idea to investors, let’s say, to an all male team of investors. And they might say to the man who’s pitching. Well, he’s been incredibly successful. He knows what he’s doing. Yeah, let’s give him the money. But to the woman they might say, well, she’s already made a lot of money. Why, why does she need more? And this idea of women as beneficiaries of capital rather than the agents of capital deployment, I think, is really ingrained in our culture and our biases.

Lori Choi, CFA: Oh, interesting! Thank you for sharing that. And so is there anything else that you would like to highlight? What you hope people will take away from The XX Edge, and certainly we hope people will read it and get it if they don’t have it already. Because there are so many research studies that you just mentioned that are great as a reference tool in speaking with other investors and making these decisions for their teams, etc. 

Dr. Ruth Shaber: Well, a couple of things. First of all, I want to make it clear that this isn’t meant to be a replacement strategy. We’re not trying to switch out all the chairs that men currently occupy to put women in. And one of the other things that we haven’t discussed is how over 85% of capital allocation decisions in the current finance industry are made by white men, whether you look at venture capital, or entrepreneurs, or CEOs of fortune 500 companies, there’s a huge underrepresentation of both women and people of color, and if you’re only taking the top 5% of any particular demographic, then you’re leaving 45% of above average talent out of the room right? One thing we just wanna make clear is that this is about making the table bigger. It’s not about switching out the chairs – it’s about pulling up more chairs. Diversity in asset allocation is an incredibly important driver of financial performance. And it’s not just about gender diversity. It’s about all types of diversity. When everybody sitting around the table looks exactly the same you get groupthink, and you can’t see around the corners or (you have) gaps in your information.

So that’s one thing. And we know that when women enter the workforce without necessarily decreasing the number of men in the workforce that the economy grows. So this is about more pie for everybody. It’s not about a zero sum game. In fact, for a long time we were gonna call the book “More Pie” and we think The XX Edge is a much better title.

The other thing that I want to make sure we talk about is the importance of lived experience as a way of making us better investors. 

In my mother’s generation, she was a very successful economist and consultant, but she never brought her lived experience into her business rooms. She would never talk about her children or the challenges of having a two career family, or if one of her children had a soccer game or a ballet recital. Believe me, she never told anybody, and she certainly didn’t leave work to go, and it was assumed that in order for a woman to be successful, she had to behave more like a man. 

I think what’s really important to bring out, and what we learned in our research, is that it’s actually our lived experience – what we went through with COVID, what we need to balance, or the fact that we can’t get good healthcare for our families, or we’re the sandwich generation, and we’re trying to juggle our parents and our children, and there’s just no good childcare, or whatever it is – those factors actually enhance our ability to perform as financial decision makers. It makes us better investors, and that I think, is a real paradigm shift. It certainly was for me.

Lori Choi, CFA: That’s great. At Veris we are very aligned – it is part of our investment philosophy that we diversify who is investing the capital on behalf of our clients, too. Because, as you say, lived experience does matter. But that’s a perfect segue into talking about how your work in the book kind of led you to The Diverse Investing Collective. And if you have a couple of studies to share around the business case for gender and racial diversity, that would be great.

Dr. Ruth Shaber: When we were writing the book, we focused on gender diversity because that’s where most of the research has been. It’s a lot easier when you’re studying outcomes to be able to identify people’s gender and I also wanna make it clear that gender, of course, is not binary, but in most of the research studies people would be categorized as either being a man or a woman. And so that’s what this evidence is based on. 

But the same rationale for why gender diversity outperforms is actually now coming out more and more with other types of cognitive diversity and racial diversity. Some of the most interesting studies and really compelling work has come out since we published the book. One was from Vanguard.¹ You normally think of Vanguard as having passive funds, but they do have a relatively small portfolio of actively managed funds that they offer to some of their clients. They studied 2,600 US active equity funds between 2008 and 2021, and categorized the portfolio managers into four different categories: all male teams, all women teams, mixed gender teams that were primarily men, and mixed gender teams that were primarily women. And then they looked at the performance of those funds over that time period, and they found that the strongest performance came from the mixed gender funds that primarily had more women. Second performance on strength was with mixed gender more men, then all female, then all male.

Now there weren’t that many, all female teams. So the statistical strength of the study is a little bit not as strong as you’d want it to be, but what they found is that if all you did in your portfolio was prioritize mixed gender, primarily female fund managers in your portfolio you would outperform the market by 47 basis points.

In 2023 a similar analysis by WTW also found that gender diversity outperforms by about 45 basis points.² Harvard Business Review took the next step and looked at diversity more broadly and venture capital, and showed that venture capital teams that were all homogeneous, underperformed by as much as 30%.³ In 2020, WTW looked across a number of different asset classes, and also found that ethnic diversity outperformed.⁴ 

So we’re getting more and more studies that are strengthening this evidence around diversity more in general. But, like I said, 85% of capital is allocated by white men. And so it just doesn’t make sense. And it’s a really a huge missed opportunity for investors.

Our decision to focus on portfolio managers was really based on this, you know, the Vanguard and WTW Studies because we feel as if the portfolio managers are really a black box. You know, it’s really hard to know who’s actually managing your money and who is actually making the asset allocation decisions- which companies to invest in, which companies to engage with and over what issues affect all of us. It’s just like healthcare, right? I mean, we all care about the economy. We all care about what products get developed and which companies get supported. So that was what really put the wind in our sales to start the Diverse Investing Collective.

Lori Choi, CFA: That’s great. Wow! And so you’ve actually prepared a video. I wonder if you would set it up or frame it for us briefly. 

Dr. Ruth Shaber: Well, it took me a couple of minutes just now to explain why we cared about portfolio managers. And so we really wanted to have a powerful cartoon that would tell the story.

Diverse Investing Collective Video Narration: “Do you know what your money is doing while you sleep, whether you have a 401 k., or pension, a college savings account, or oversee an endowment? Your investment money is hard at work, even when you’re not, and while some of us have begun looking into how our investments impact the world, very few of us have dug into who is managing our money. We just want it to keep growing, for when we need it. But if we care about making our world a better place and making good returns so we can retire or grow an endowment for future investments, we need to understand who is pulling the levers in the investment machine and how their decisions affect financial and real world outcomes.

While investors like you actually own the money they invest, fund managers and asset management firms are the ones making most of the day-to-day decisions about where to put those assets. This gives them immense power to decide which companies get funded and which ones don’t, as well as strong influence over how companies approach important societal issues like environmental impact and labor practices. The issue is that most of today’s portfolio managers pretty much look the same – male and white.

Research shows that when everyone on the team is the same, it can lead to group, think, and worse decision-making, while teams with a more diverse mix of genders, races, and perspectives can lead to better investment performance.

Fund managers with more diverse backgrounds, such as women and people of color, will see challenges and opportunities missed by a group who has not walked in their shoes, allowing great ideas to lead wherever they might originate.

Your investment money is always at work, but it can be even more productive for you and our world by adding more diversity behind the controls. To learn how you can take action to change the face of finance, increasing financial and social returns. Visit www.diverseinvestingcollective com.”

Lori Choi, CFA: I love that video, and it makes it really simple to understand why a diverse team can see different challenges and opportunities because of their perspectives and their lived experience. So that’s great. The collective has set a goal of 33% of AUM in the US managed by women and people of color. Why, 33%?

Dr. Ruth Shaber: Well, first of all, I want to say that we’re not the first people to be working on this. Many, many people have been working for decades to try and diversify the finance industry. A lot of institutional investors and family offices and individuals have been focused on, for instance, diverse owned funds, particularly in the private markets. 

There has been really important work that’s been done to try and improve culture in the big firms to help with retention and talent support and all the things. And so I don’t want to make it sound like we’re the first ones who are trying to tackle this problem. 

But there’s a couple things that we’re trying to add to what’s come before us. One is that this 33% is that we know there’s really great evidence that shows when there’s at least 33% of any particular type of diversity in the room, that voice is more powerful, and we know certainly most of the evidence about that comes from from women, that if there’s only one woman at the table, chances are they’re not going to be heard, but if there’s three women at the table they’re gonna have a voice. And that’s certainly true with people of color or any type of diversity.

But we’re talking about diverse teams. It’s that we want to see the promotion of diverse teams. So we’re not necessarily advocating for all women teams, either, or all people of color teams. We think that the magic happens when teams are diverse.

The other thing that we’re trying to add to the conversation is making the denominator AUM. We’re trying to solve for the problem that, while more women and more people of color are coming into the industry, they tend to be managing relatively small funds and tend to be in the private markets, and in some ways they’re competing against each other. 

What we think is really the more genuine measure of power and progress is by talking about (the question of) how much money are they managing? Not just the number of people in the industry. So by saying, our goal is that 33% of assets will be managed by teams that are both gender diverse and racially diverse, and our goal is to do that by 2033.

Lori Choi, CFA: And where are we today? Do you have that number, by chance?

Dr. Ruth Shaber: We’re about to launch our dashboard, which will be publicly available, and in the funds that we’ve been able to examine, it’s about 16%.

And it’s important when I say, the funds that we’ve been able to examine, this is information that’s not publicly available, and that’s one of the first problems we need to solve is to make it transparently available.

If you are an asset owner, particularly if you’re an institutional investor, and you have consultants or other teams around you, you can query a fund or firm and find out who are actually the portfolio managers and do an assessment about whether the diversity that you’re looking for is there. But it’s not available to most investors. It’s not something that you can just go to Blackrock or Fidelity’s website and find out who’s managing my money. Given how strategically important it is to the strength of your portfolio, we believe that it needs to be publicly available and that it should be available to everybody. So our first goal is around transparency.

Lori Choi, CFA: And that leads us to your call to action. How can everyone help out? 

Dr. Ruth Shaber: When we started out with this initiative, we talked to a lot of the biggest firms and banks and asked them, you know. Look at this data. It’s so overwhelming, you know. Why aren’t you recruiting more women and more people of color as portfolio managers and first, they’d say, well, there aren’t any out there – which we know isn’t true. Or well, we can’t figure out why they always leave. We hire them, and then they leave. And you know, maybe there’s a problem with their culture, what they’re doing to try and retain the best talent. But they also told us we’re not actually going to change until our clients demand it.

That is true in any industry. Right? You couldn’t get organic food until there was enough demand for organic food, and then the grocery stores had to supply it. In the same way. We believe that when there’s enough of a demand for transparency and diversity of fund managers that the firms will have to supply it, and that means that they’re going to have to change their culture in order to recruit, retain, and promote the best talent. Now, maybe that’s naive. 

Obviously, it’s more complex than that. But we do think that the first step is transparency and measurement. And so what we’re doing is recruiting from the demand side of the equation. High net worth individuals, foundations, universities, pension funds and other institutional investors to raise awareness about how important this issue is, and to help them to give them the tools to demand that transparency from the funds that they’re investing in.

And we have an open letter calling for transparency.  

We already have over $60 billion in AUM (assets under management represented) of signers to this letter. And we’re focusing on the 20 largest funds. And we’re calling out those that are transparent and do publish the demographics of their fund teams and those that don’t. And so our first step is to shine a light on who is providing this information and who is not.

We’re also very shortly going to be standing up a dashboard which will allow folks to be able to track progress. And we’re working with a PR team to start telling stories (that illustrate) the need for this work, but also the individual organizations and institutions that have been looking at the diversity of their fund teams and the fact that they’re not losing money. This is not a concessionary strategy at all. In fact, it’s a way of strengthening your portfolio.

So that’s our strategy. And our call to action is, if you are interested in this, take a look at our website, take a look at the transparency letter, and even if you don’t want to sign the letter, start paying attention to who’s managing your money. Ask your advisors. This is information that you deserve to know. So just ask for it. And then you can make your decisions about whether you want to stick with funds that have homogeneous teams or not. 

If they do have a homogeneous team, and you’re a big enough institution where you can say, ‘this isn’t good. I think that you need to bring in more women, and people of color. If you want my business next year, I’d like to see some change.’ So this is an engagement opportunity.

Lori Choi, CFA: Thank you so much for that, and we’re not done yet. We do have some audience Q and A. One question that we got in advance was ‘What has been the most difficult part of getting stakeholders to commit to this part of gender and equity investing?

Dr. Ruth Shaber: Well, there’s certainly the bias, and there’s the fear of underperformance. And you know there’s no question that right now there’s a push back around ESG in general and diversity in particular. You’d have to be living under a rock to not feel that, and there are some, particular state pension funds, or university endowments now that feel that while they might enthusiastically believe that this is the right thing to do, aren’t able to be public about it.

I understand that, even if they’re actually changing the way they invest, they’re not able to talk about it. But those of us who can talk about it because we’re individuals, we’re running foundations that have the luxury of being able to de-risk this work for other people, we have an obligation to talk about it. It’s the right thing to do, not only for the strength of our portfolios, but also because these are great jobs that have been largely hoarded by white men, and there’s no good reason why we shouldn’t be loud and and and strong about how important this is, not just for our own financial wellbeing, but also for our communities and for the job creation and all the social impact.

Lori Choi, CFA: Thank you for that. That leads to another question. ‘Are there any policy levers that you think would help stimulate investment in gender diverse or racially diverse businesses?

Dr. Ruth Shaber: I think there are. I’m not a policy expert. I actively avoid any kind of policy levers, because I find that it’s frustrating and those of you out there who are interested in this, I applaud you, and I’m grateful. But ultimately, given how material this information is to our investments, it needs to be mandated that this information is transparent and publicly available.

You know in my history, in healthcare, when I started out in the nineties, hospitals and insurance companies and physician groups didn’t have to report anything on performance. And, in fact, when there was pressure around how many people died on the operating room table? Or how often do your patients that are discharged end up back in the emergency room the following week? Things that any consumer deserves to be able to know about, hospitals would say, oh, that’s you know that’s private information. I don’t have to report on that. But the industry has evolved so much in 30 years, largely due to consumer pressure, government pressure, insurance pressure, employers pressure – those are the ones who are the biggest clients for healthcare who’ve demanded this kind of transparency. But now, not only are there thousands of publicly reported measures in healthcare, but healthcare organizations themselves have to pay for that reporting so they can’t resist it anymore. And they have to actually pay for the inspectors to come in and collect the data so that they can provide those reports to the public. So I’m optimistic that in finance this drumbeat of evidence is so loud and strong that eventually governments and consumers will demand it.

Lori Choi, CFA: And we’re seeing some movement with the SEC around climate disclosures. Maybe this is on the way. 

Dr. Ruth Shaber: Yes, hopefully this is next.

Lori Choi, CFA: So we’ve got another question, ‘What is your primary form of investment vehicle for investor capital? Is it a lending promissory note? If so, what are your expected repayment terms? 3 or 5 years? And are these investments open to non-institutional investors?’

Dr. Ruth Shaber: I’m not sure I completely understand the question. If you’re asking me about Tara Health Foundation’s portfolio, we have a different strategy in every asset class. So in the private markets, for instance, we have several direct investments in early stage companies, but the bulk of our private allocation is through Rhia Ventures and RH Capital, which is a venture fund that focuses on women’s health in general and reproductive health in particular.

We also do quite a bit of debt to women’s health clinics. They tend to be below market debt. But we also have started a debt program to new fund managers. Recognizing that getting operating capital to get their funds off the ground is difficult and often you know just having that working capital to get them over to where they have sufficient fees is really important, and these types of notes tend to be either at market rate or slightly below market. And then most of our capital is in the public markets – mutual funds and other SMAs.

Lori Choi, CFA: We’ve got one more, from Luisamaria Ruiz Carlile, she’s saying, ‘wonderful to see you. Thank you for your work! Please share investing opportunities you have found that address gender based violence.

Dr. Ruth Shaber: I’m sorry, Luisamaria, I don’t really have those in my back pocket to share with you. I know that Criterion has done quite a bit of work on a strategy around investing to prevent gender based violence and Futures without Violence does quite a bit of work there. I can’t tell you a fund. It’s an important field though, and I wish I could answer that for you.

Lori Choi, CFA: We do have one more here, ‘How do you think about the fact that women fund managers often get bucketed into the diversity pot of funds which are inherently a small sleeve amongst much larger allocations? What advice would you give to women fund managers who face these issues when fundraising, especially those who are emerging managers and just getting started?’

Dr. Ruth Shaber: Give them the book! (The XX Edge) That’s exactly why we wrote this book. You’re describing exactly the catch-22, the double standard with these carve-outs. Some investors (think) well, I’ll give it a try, but it’s not going to be my main strategy. I feel your pain.

Lori Choi, CFA: I’m just so grateful for this conversation today, Ruth, and for all the insights you’ve shared, and thank you to folks who attended, and for your questions. We really appreciate it. We hope that everyone will take these action steps to heart. So please click on the transparency letter if you can fill it out. Great is it, is it for anyone? Did you say, Ruth?

Dr. Ruth Shaber: It’s for investors, for asset owners and for advisors who are in the position to influence which funds they are going to invest in.

Lori Choi, CFA: Awesome. Check out Tara Health Foundation’s website. So many resources – about the Diverse Investing Collective as well. Thank you so much again, everyone, and we will see you next time.

The Veris Interview Series Continues

Our next Veris Interview will be with Timothy Smith, Senior Policy Advisor at the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR).  You are invited to Join Veris on Zoom – Tuesday, June 18, 2024, at 8 am Pacific / 11 am Eastern to hear about the history of shareholder engagement and activism, why it matters, engagement versus divestment, and the future of shareholder activism in the face of ESG attacks.

Register here.

About Lori Choi and Ruth Shaber

Lori Choi is a Partner, Senior Advisor, and CFA® Charterholder at Veris Wealth Partners and she also serves on the Veris Board of Managers. With over seventeen years of experience in wealth management and financial services, Lori is passionate about helping individuals, families, and foundations have a positive social and environmental impact with their wealth. Read her full bio

Ruth Shaber, MD, is a changemaker and innovator, moving from a robust career as an OBGYN and senior executive at Kaiser Permanente to empowering women across finance and healthcare. Currently, she is the founder and president of Tara Health Foundation, a philanthropic investment group that uses evidence-informed programs to promote women’s well-being and opportunities. She is also the co-founder and board chair of Rhia Ventures, a collective of foundations and investors committed to bringing new types of capital to the reproductive health field. Alongside co-author Patience-Marime Ball, she recently published The XX Edge: Unlocking Higher Returns and Lower Risk, which serves as the basis for her new initiative — The Diverse Investing Collective — which aims to increase the assets managed by gender-diverse and racially-diverse teams to 33 percent by 2033.


The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only, represents only a summary of topics discussed, and should not be construed as the provision of personalized investment advice, or an offer to sell or the solicitation of any offer to buy any securities.  Rather, the contents including, without limitation, any forecasts and projections, simply reflect the opinions and views of the speakers.  All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the speakers as of the date of publication and are subject to change without notice.  There is no guarantee that the views and opinions expressed herein will come to pass.  Additionally, this document contains information derived from third party sources.  Although we believe these third-party sources to be reliable, we make no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information derived from such third-party sources and take no responsibility therefore. Certain case studies, research studies, and performance results presented herein are illustrative and designed to support the investment theses or opinions of the speakers and should not be construed as representing the entirety of all pertinent experiences or relevant market data, some of which may support a different opinion or thesis.

Past performance is not indicative of or a guarantee of future results. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of all amounts invested.

Veris Partner Alison Pyott pays tribute to the life, work, and impact achieved by gender lens investing pioneer and catalyst at large Suzanne Biegel.

A Tribute to Suzanne Biegel

By Alison Pyott

This August 8th, I am called to celebrate gender lens investing pioneer Suzanne Biegel. This is a tribute to my fellow Leo, colleague, collaborator, and most of all, friend. Suzanne has long been a source of insight, mentorship, and inspiration to me and to so many of us across the global impact space.

I first met Suzanne at Criterion Convergence X: Investing with a Gender Lens in 2011. She brought her own cosmic energy to our diverse group of philanthropists, systems leaders, researchers, and financial professionals. She inspired us to do more to invest in women with our collective networks, expertise, and resources. Over the past twelve years, she has helped me and my fellow Verisians, including Patricia Farrar-Rivas, Luisamaria Carlile, Stephanie Cohn Rupp, and Roraj Pradhananga manifest our gender lens investing work at Veris. She has often served as a trusted sounding board and as primary source for our firm’s gender lens research and papers, including Bending the Arc of Finance

Astrologers refer to August 8th as the Lion’s Gate. According to Yoga Journal, it is “a mystical day, a culmination of cosmic alignments along with wisdom and beliefs passed down from ancient cultures” that embodies “enhanced awareness that lies beyond our usual perception.” It is considered by many to be an ideal day to set intentions and manifest what you want to bring into reality.¹ Like the energy of the Lion’s Gate, I believe Suzanne has awareness beyond usual perception. Her boundless energy shines bright. She uses this energy to challenge our thinking about what is possible, inspires us to unlock possibilities and potential, and she gets a lot of work done!

Suzanne’s intentions and energy have created, contributed to, and curated global networks of people investing in women and positive social and environmental change, including GenderSmart – now known as 2xGlobal. Through her work, Suzanne has influenced hundreds of funds and institutional investors and billions of dollars of capital to move with a gender lens.² She has nurtured and incubated so many initiatives that Suzanne is known as “catalyst at large.” ³

Heading for Change

In the summer of 2021, Suzanne was diagnosed with stage four metastatic lung cancer. While many of us would step back from our work, Suzanne’s energy shined brighter. After considering the legacy she wanted to leave, Suzanne and her husband Daniel Maskit established a donor-advised fund to make investments and grants that would advance both climate and biodiversity solutions and gender equity. The fund, Heading for Change, puts the insights Suzanne has gained through her investment career into practice on a larger scale, dedicating her legacy portfolio to catalytic investments that will help build the investment vehicles, businesses, and institutions the world needs to battle the climate crisis and build a more just and gender equitable world.

Suzanne and Daniel launched Heading for Change with a $1 million investment, and they seek to grow it exponentially with the help of hundreds of donor-partners who are driven to help build the ecosystem and generate investor demand for these kinds of investments more broadly. Suzanne has said that their aim is for Heading for Change to inspire other private investors to move their capital with a joint climate and gender lens.⁴ Suzanne and Daniel believe that these kinds of investments have the collective power to prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis, and to scale the tools and services needed for mitigation, adaptation, and resilience in a gender-inclusive way.⁵

In true Suzanne fashion, Heading for Change continues to foster and build Suzanne’s global network of entrepreneurs, philanthropists, systems leaders, and investors. It invites collaboration, seeks intelligent innovation, and is designed to inspire others to act so that more pioneering, transformative ideas will succeed. I see Heading for Change as an ongoing spark of her life intentions and manifestations. For more information about Heading for Change and the different ways you can participate, visit

I admire Suzanne’s shining example to help others invest with social and environmental consciousness with elegance, enthusiasm, and intelligence. As we celebrate her today, my hope is Suzanne’s life continues to be an inspiration and guiding light.

Alison Pyott is a Senior Wealth Manager and Partner at Veris. She is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and Certified Private Wealth Advisor® (CPWA®) professional.  The CPWA certification is an advanced professional education and certification program for advisors who serve high-net-worth clients. Alison formerly led the firm’s Women, Wealth, and Impact strategy, co-authoring several papers on gender lens investing including Gender Lens Investing: Bending the Arc of Finance for Women & Girls. Alison is on the Heading for Change Investment Committee. Read Alison Pyott’s full bio.




Veris Wealth Partners’ Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Task Force Case Study Published as Part of the JEDI Investing Toolkit

by Roraj Pradhananga, Partner – Senior Research Analyst

GenderSmart, a global field building initiative dedicated to unlocking the deployment of strategic, impactful gender-smart capital at scale, recently launched a Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) toolkit. This JEDI toolkit is designed to encourage allocators, investors and intermediaries to understand the dimensions of JEDI investing and start applying gender and JEDI lenses throughout their investment processes.

The GenderSmart JEDI working group created the toolkit with the hope of improving investment decision-making, bringing on board new portfolio or fund managers, improving existing portfolios and enacting organization change for both people and processes. These goals are in line with Veris Wealth Partners’ vision, our firm’s emphasis on our Racial and Gender Equity theme, as well as the recommendations our own EDI taskforce – consisting of Patricia Farrar-Rivas, Jane Swan and myself –  have made over the last two years.

As part of the JEDI Toolkit, GenderSmart published a case study profiling the work of Veris Wealth Partners’ EDI Task Force. As Partner and Chair of our EDI Task Force, they asked me to describe our approach and I responded, “For Veris, EDI is not an exercise in box-checking. The financial services industry’s approach too often strives to increase diversity in management without sufficient consideration of embedded structural EDI obstacles. Black, Brown and Indigenous voices remain severely underrepresented across the financial services industry. To truly scale up impact and drive racial justice across the industry, a majority of firms will need to adopt an EDI approach that is similar or better than ours.”

How is Veris developing this EDI strategy and applying an EDI lens in investments?

Veris’ Investment Committee approved the EDI task force’s recommendations to significantly increase the number of EDI managers and managers with an explicit EDI lens in their investment process over the next five years. This requires us to be intentional in building our priority pipeline and due diligence and approval processes. We have approved funds with an EDI lens – including funds that focus on employee ownership and combine gender, race and community voices.

Veris’ EDI task force is mandated to assess existing investment practices, make recommendations on EDI goals and integrate EDI in our investment decisions. In 2020, we enhanced and amplified EDI elements throughout our due diligence questionnaire. This new data was instrumental in creating our EDI Manager framework and an Advancing Racial and Gender Equity (ARGE) assessment tool that classifies our approved managers in five different categories – from EDI watchlist (needs improvement) to EDI manager (best-in-class). The other categories are EDI aspirational, EDI firm and EDI investment process.

The ARGE tool measures diversity at all levels of the firm and assesses EDI lens of the investment process of the various fund managers. Pay equity, employee benefits, implementation of EDI policies, portfolio company engagement, shareholder proposals and disclosure of EDI proxy voting guidelines and records are among some of the reviewed data points.

Our next steps include engaging our fund managers, communicating best practices and helping them make improvements. We also performed a self-assessment using the ARGE tool and Veris is not yet an EDI manager. We are asking our non-EDI managers to join us on this transformation journey. Collecting data continues to be our biggest challenge. The success of our EDI approach is dependent on our managers’ willingness to engage, share data and implement changes themselves.

Veris Wealth Partners’ EDI Vision and Commitments

Veris is an impact wealth management firm with a vision to build a just, equitable and sustainable world and we believe equity (which is purposefully listed first), diversity and inclusion (EDI) must touch every aspect of our work. Veris strives to transform our firm and the industry in pursuit of this vision, such that along with this vision, mission and values, EDI is an integral part of our investment philosophy. Veris strongly believes EDI should be embedded firm-wide in every aspect: mission, vision, values, culture and policies (including hiring, retention, mentoring, promotion, and vendor/supplier selection). Our signatory commitments include Confluence Philanthropy’s Belonging Pledge, Due Diligence 2.0, Investor Statement of Solidarity & Call to Action to Address Systemic Racism and Women’s Empowerment Principles. Veris approaches commitments with great intention, evaluating internal changes required to ensure they are accountable.

Click here for a recording from the launch of the GenderSmart Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Investing Toolkit

Roraj Pradhananga is a Partner and Senior Research Analyst at Veris Wealth Partners. He leads the Investment Research team and is a voting member of the Investment Committee.

The information contained herein is provided for educational purposes only and is subject to change without notice.  

Women, Wealth & Impact: A Conversation with Ellen Remmer and Janine Firpo of Invest for Better

By Alison Pyott, CFP®, CPWA®

Growing the number of impact investors working to address the world’s most pressing problems has long been part of Veris Wealth Partners’ vision and mission. We wanted to highlight the efforts of Invest for Better, an organization founded by Ellen Remmer that is working to inspire women to harness the power of their money to create a better world through education, peer learning circles and community. Recently Ellen joined forces with Janine Firpo, author of Activate Your Money: Invest to Grow Your Wealth and Build a Better World, to expand their collective support for women investors. It has been wonderful to witness and support the success of this effort to empower women impact investors. I recently asked Ellen and Janine a few questions about Invest for Better and their approach to growing an impact movement focused on women.

Alison Pyott: Ellen, why did you start Invest for Better?

Ellen Remmer: I had personally gone through a challenging process as I became inspired to do values aligned investing. Through my day job, I was meeting others who were promoting impact investing and one of those people was Melanie Audette at Mission Investors Exchange. We brought a group together that cared about bringing values aligned investing to a broader audience with a specific focus on women.  This began as a project with amazing partners and shaping it was a collaborative effort. As the circle model took off, we needed to build capacity to make it bigger. Partnering with Janine has been a wonderful evolution.

Alison Pyott: Janine, what inspired you to write Activate Your Money?

Janine Firpo: In 1995 I quit my high-tech start-up job and went on a four and half month sub-Saharan journey. I was inspired to do more meaningful work and help solve some of the problems I saw in Africa. This started a career in international development. I was at a global philanthropy conference – everyone there was high net worth and institutions. That wasn’t me, but I wondered why can’t it be? Over the next 10 years of exploring how to invest all my money with impact, I discovered there were options for everyone. And yet, it was hard to get actionable information about how to align all my assets – even from my advisors. So, I wrote a book. I wanted it to be a resource for women learning alone, as well as in clubs. I’ve had great experiences in clubs. Learning in groups is powerful.

Alison Pyott: Why focus on women?

Janine Firpo: There were few finance books for women, except those focused on the basics. Those books did not include a discussion of our goals and values. Women don’t want to think about money from just our heads. We want to connect it to our goals and aspirations.

Ellen Remmer: The data was clear that women and millennials are interested in shopping and investing with purpose. In my philanthropic experience working with families and donors, women saw philanthropy as the way to create change but did not recognize the power of investments to support a social purpose. Women are curious, but the activation gap between interest and action was significant. The existing on-ramps were limited to angel investing. Nothing helped women look at all asset classes.

Alison Pyott: Do you feel women invest differently than men?

Janine Firpo: I think they do. Women want to take informed risks and understand the stories behind their investments.

Ellen Remmer: The data is confusing and not consistent. The message given to women is not about investing – it is focused on saving. Women often underestimate their knowledge and ability. We see this with investing. We’re socialized to underestimate our abilities. Learning circles help build confidence to ask the right questions.

Alison Pyott: Speaking of circles, what have been your results to date?

Ellen Remmer: We’ve been excited about the number of women we’ve reached. Since 2020, we have hosted 50 total circles with more than 500 women. We are really gratified by the results from our first cohort – 60% of the respondents moved their money to impact investing. They were poised to do it.  And 95% took some action – talking to a partner or changing advisors. Invest for Better has also inspired a variety of spin-offs (including) Jewish Women Invest and groups in Canada, Europe and Mexico.

Alison Pyott: Those are great outcomes. What do you think is the tipping point for women to go from interest in impact investing to action?

Janine Firpo: What I’m seeing is the gap disappears when there is education and community – when it is fun, engaging, and resonates.

Ellen Remmer: This is what is beautiful about our model. Women come curious and poised. They hear stories of other women and realize this is just about asking the right questions and they don’t have to be brilliant at everything. The circle gives you support and accountability to take action.

Alison Pyott: You both shared that you have faced obstacles on your journey to impact investing. What can other women do to overcome their obstacles?

Ellen Remmer: The first thing is to understand your obstacles. Sometimes you have to convince somebody else. Sometimes it is finding time. Or, not being able to find the resources because you don’t know where to start. Each obstacle requires a different solution. At Invest for Better we don’t assume everyone has the same obstacles, but we provide support to help them with their obstacles. Our resources include tips on how to talk to your partner or someone else in your financial world they need to get on board. Or, how to find the right advisor including a new partnership with Values Advisor. The circles provide support and accountability.

Alison Pyott: What do you feel is the role of financial advisors in supporting women impact investors? What do you feel is essential in that relationship? 

Janine Firpo: Listening and educating. Women want to be heard, recognized, and educated. We want to understand. We don’t want to be told. Don’t patronize me or make me feel less than. A great financial advisor should help me feel informed, empowered, and successful. I should know that I am investing in the things that I care about and achieving my financial return objectives.

Ellen Remmer: They are holistic in understanding their clients’ objectives. They listen to understand financial and personal goals so the person feels like they will find meaning and demonstrate impact. A good relationship is a learning journey together and not just about money. It’s experiences, engagement, and collaboration that is organic and natural. Women want advisors to help them understand more and expand their horizons. In the best relationship you continue to challenge each other.

Alison Pyott: What is your vision of success?

Ellen Remmer: Millions of women are engaged with their investments. They are at the table creating a more just and sustainable financial system. This is a way to engage women in shaping the capital markets for the future.

Janine Firpo: My hope is that values-aligned investing becomes a given. It is just how we invest. People will automatically consider the impact of their investments as part of the process, and they will recognize the importance of where their money flows. We’ll put more money into the things we care about; our communities, gender and social equity, and a more sustainable environment and economy. That’s my goal. I would love to see millions of women join this movement. Invest for Better is a catalyst to help more women be aware that their money matters and that they don’t have to go it alone.

Alison Pyott: What most excites in this moment for women impact investors?

Janine Firpo: I’m excited that so many women and young people want to invest their money in a meaningful way. This movement has real momentum.

Ellen Remmer: I’m excited about our new curriculum and alignment with Janine’s book. I’m really excited to see how impact investing is taking off right now – clients demanding solutions, new products accessible to investors, and educating a whole new population to keep us moving in the right direction.

Alison Pyott is a former Invest for Better Steering Committee Member and current Advisor to Northern New England Women’s Investor Network (NNEWIN).  She is a Partner and Senior Advisor at Veris Wealth Partners.


The Data Shows Gender Lens Investing is Growing. There is More Work To Do.

By Alison Pyott, CFP®, CPWA®

The flow of assets into Gender Lens Investing (GLI) continues to grow rapidly. According to a new analysis by Veris Wealth Partners, asset growth in public market separately managed accounts (SMAs) doubled over the last two years – from $500M to over $1B in assets among 18 products.

Total public equity and fixed income GLI funds accelerated to over $12B as of June 30th, 2021 based on Veris research and the work of Parallelle Finance. In Veris’ 2018 GLI analysis, we reported $2.4B invested in GLI public market products. In addition, Catalyst at Large and Wharton Social Impact Initiative recently released Project Sage 4.0 – a global scan of private equity, venture capital and private debt funds with a gender lens. Over 200 private GLI offerings have raised $6B. This puts combined GLI assets across public and private funds over $18B.

Racial Equity and Gender Lens

At Veris, we are also focused on equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) internally, across our investment managers, and through placement of capital. For our 2021 scan we asked fund sponsors if they were including a racial equity analysis as part of their strategy. Thirteen of the eighteen respondents said no or did not respond. Of those, one said they were considering inclusion. Others reported they have a separate strategy or an add on screen for racial equity. Some respondents mentioned the challenge in collecting racial equity data for their portfolios. Five managers reported they do include racial equity in their gender lens strategy.

Gender Diversity at Firm and Fund Levels

We also wanted to know if GLI fund sponsors were walking the talk. We collected information on gender diversity at firm and fund levels. Where applicable, most firms responded. Private firms that disclosed ownership had women ownership ranging between 20 – 100% with an average of 37%. Fund sponsors averaged 27% women board representation along with 27% women representation in senior management.

The Pandemic’s Impact on Women in The Workforce

While equity markets are robust and assets continue to flow into GLI products, it is becoming more apparent that philanthropy and investing alone will not create the outcomes we desire for women and their families. In the U.S., where we lack universal basic support for women and families, including family leave and affordable childcare, COVID is forcing many women to drop out of the workforce. According to research published by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, women’s participation in the labor force has not returned to pre-pandemic levels and when motherhood, race, and ethnicity are incorporated the results are worse. The researchers found “larger increases in pandemic-era labor force exits among women living with children under age 6 and among lower-earning women living with school-age children after controlling for detailed job and demographic characteristics.” (Source)

Public Policy Work

When we started Veris in 2007, we often stated that government and philanthropy alone would not solve the world’s problems and that we needed capital markets and impact investment to create change. However, as Impact Investing has grown we have come to recognize that philanthropy and Impact Investing alone will not create change. Over the last few years Veris has shifted to become more involved in public policy.

In 2021 we partnered with the PL+US (Paid Leave for the United States) initiative to campaign for a national paid family and medical leave policy by 2022. We have also experienced firsthand the patchwork of state level benefits and adjusted our family leave policy to fairly benefit all Veris employees across the country. We feel that a paid family leave program for all employees and more accessible and affordable childcare is essential for families and economies.

The Past and Future of GLI

In 2009 the term “gender lens investing” was created. In 2014 Veris published its first scan of gender lens investments. At that time assets totaled $100M. In just a few years we have seen explosive interest in gender lens investing, product, and asset growth. We can celebrate these achievements, but it is clear there is more work to do.


This research would not be possible without Edward Fisher, Tracy Lynch, and Mihir Mehan. We are also grateful to Suzanne Biegel, Catalyst at Large and Co-Producer, GenderSmart Investing Summit for her generous collaboration, and Diana van Maasdijk, Equileap for her support.

Thank you also to the companies who provided their time and information:

  • Aperio Group
  • Bank of America
  • Breckinridge Capital Advisors
  • BNY Mellon
  • Envestnet® PMC™
  • Fulcrum Capital
  • Glenmede
  • Green Alpha
  • Impax Asset Management
  • Invesco
  • Lazard Asset Management
  • Parametric
  • Prometheus Capital
  • Nia Impact Capital
  • Reflection Asset Management
  • Rothschild & Co
  • ThirtyNorth Investments, LLC
  • Anonymous

Alison Pyott is a Partner and Senior Advisor with Veris. She is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and Certified Private Wealth Advisor® (CPWA®) professional.

There is a Strong Business Case for Racial Equity, But Investors Must Look Beyond the Data

By Stephanie Cohn Rupp

George Floyd was murdered by a white police officer on May 25th, 2020–just a few days before the anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre on June 1st. On that day in 1921 a white mob attacked, burned and bombed Tulsa’s Greenwood District; a thriving Black business area known as Black Wall Street. Hundreds of Black Tulsans were murdered and over thirty-five city blocks of homes and businesses were destroyed. Overnight, one of the most prosperous Black communities in the nation was reduced to ash and rubble.

In May of 2021 Viola Fletcher, a 107-year-old survivor of the Tulsa Massacre, testified before a Congressional House Judiciary Subcommittee about how this act of racially-driven violence and destruction has haunted her throughout her long life. “I have lived through the Massacre every day,” she said. “Our country may forget this history, but I cannot. I will not.”1 In the same testimony, Viola Fletcher also shared details of how racially-driven economic oppression has impacted her daily existence. “Most of my life I was a domestic worker serving white families,” she said. “I never made much money. To this day I can barely afford my everyday needs.”2

The congressional testimony of Viola Fletcher, and the confluence of these two horrific anniversaries, the death of George Floyd and the Tulsa Massacre, reminds us how much work we have left to do to dismantle systemic white supremacy in our society and our economy in the United States.

What can investors do to advance racial equity?

I recently participated in an investor dialogue hosted by RFK Human Rights focused on the question “One year after the tragic murder of George Floyd, how can leaders in finance move from talk to concrete actions in their hiring practices, compensation equality, asset allocation, and leadership diversity from a racial equality standpoint?”

I recommend watching the full conversation here, but I thought I would share a few reflections.

Sancia Dalley, Senior Vice President at RFK Human Rights, started off our conversation by citing statistics about the state of the racial wealth gap in this country:

  • Research from the Federal Reserve Bank at St. Louis showed that between 1992 and 2016 college-educated white Americans saw their wealth increase by 96% while college-educated Black Americans saw their wealth fall by 10%.3
  • The Brookings Institute found that the net worth of a typical white family in the United States is 10 times greater than the average net worth of a Black family.4
  • Only 44% of Black households own their homes compared to 73.7% of white families.5

There is arguably greater awareness and more conversation about these statistics and about racial inequality in this country than ever before. But how much of this talk is being backed up by action?

After the death of George Floyd, there was an outpouring of commitments to racial justice from corporates and investors. At the RFK dialogue, panelist Olivia Knight, who is the Racial Justice Initiative Manager at As You Sow, shared that after Floyd’s murder her organization began keeping a racial justice scorecard to measure the actual progress made by S&P 500 companies on racial justice issues. As of March of 2021, As You Sow found that a significant portion of the S&P 500 scored zeros across all of their KPIs. They also found that only 36% of companies had actually given financial support to racial justice causes, much lower than the percentage that made public statements pledging that very support.6

This data indicates that too many public commitments to racial equity and racial justice amount to impact washing–it is more a marketing tactic than an authentic, action-backed commitment to change. To ensure authenticity we must look beyond public statements and seek action and accountability. We must look to see who is in leadership. Is racial equity evidenced in the C-suite or in the boardroom of these corporations? Is pay equity addressed at all levels of the firm? Unfortunately, not a lot has changed on that front.

We, as investors, must demand change and put our dollars into companies that are showing their commitment to building racial and gender equity and dismantling white supremacy. We can use shareholder advocacy to move companies toward action. We can invest in Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs) that drive capital and build wealth in Black communities by supporting Black-Owned businesses. According to a CDFI expert at Opportunity Finance Network, Amir Kirkwood, demand for financing of Black-owned businesses in the US outweighs supply of capital by five-fold. We can insist that justice, equity, diversity and inclusion are made a standard part of the due diligence process and that we not shy away from investing in CDFIs – not as philanthropy but as an intrinsic part of the investment portfolio. Our firm can attest that authentic EDI investing is achievable. As a manager of managers, Veris aims to select best in class managers across asset classes and sub-asset classes and we seek to weave justice, equity, diversity and inclusion throughout our due diligence process.

Going beyond the business case for racial equity.

We can offer plenty of data from economists showing that diverse teams outperform homogeneous teams – as diversity of thought yields better risk mitigation and more holistic problem solving. But we need to go beyond proving that diverse teams outperform the market to actually invest in this way. Cynics will always find counter-examples, or make the case that there is insufficient data, in private markets especially, or that we do not have enough business cycles to prove our case. I feel strongly that we should not need to make an economic argument because we do not need a business or economic argument to end human trafficking and slavery. This horrific system was and remains economically beneficial to the few who perpetrate it. So, when a financial professional or fiduciary in the industry asks for the economic benefit or business argument for EDI investing, I reply by asking in return “economic benefit for whom?”

In terms of macro-economic data, there is a huge opportunity cost of racial discrimination. Lack of investment in Black entrepreneurs and communities through business lending, consumer lending and mortgage finance means that the United States loses trillions of dollars of GDP.  A 2020 study from Citigroup found that the U.S. economy lost $16T over the past 20 years because of discriminatory policies surrounding Black wages, education, housing and investments.7 That is a huge opportunity cost, not only for investors, but for the whole economy in this country.

If you’re an investor and you want to back the future of the United States, we believe you need to be growing economic wealth that touches all communities. Investing in all communities helps us avoid this growing wealth gap and wellness gap for the benefit of all of us. This universal approach to wealth creation also will have political ramifications and enable us to become a truer democracy – with power to “all people.” It requires taking a longer-term view as an investor.

All that being said, I believe we have to look beyond both short term and long-term data. There are certain decisions that need to be made simply because they are the right thing to do. We must invest in underrepresented and historically marginalized communities because we care about all of humanity. We should invest in all communities because we believe that, as the late social entrepreneur Leila Janah once said, “talent is distributed evenly, but opportunity is not.”

We cannot undo what was done to George Floyd, Viola Fletcher, the untold numbers of Black Tulsans whose lives and livelihoods were lost and destroyed in June of 1920. But we as investors can put our efforts and our capital towards building an equitable future in which safety, health, opportunity and wealth are equally distributed across all communities in America – without having to necessarily make a business case for doing so. This should be an intrinsic part of our mandate as impact investors, in how we invest and how we operate.









The foregoing reflects the opinions and views of the authors.  All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication. There is no guarantee that the views and opinions expressed herein will come to pass. Additionally, this document contains information derived from third party sources.  Although we believe these third-party sources to be reliable, we make no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information derived from such third-party sources and take no responsibility therefore.

Standing For Racial Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Standing For Racial Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

By Patricia Farrar-Rivas

All of us at Veris stand in solidarity with the family of George Floyd, and the many others who have been a victim of police brutality and injustice.

The moment is upon us to realize, once again, that racial injustice isn’t an isolated event. It’s a systemic problem deeply embedded in all aspects of our society, and it is tearing us all apart.

Despite many concerted efforts to foster change, racism and inequality remain the status quo in most cities in America. When another tragic death takes place at the hands of police, we’re reminded how unequally we are treated based on the color of our skin, sexual orientation, gender, disabilities or religious preferences.

We stand with demonstrators across the country who are speaking out against racism.  And we stand by those who believe we must act now. We cannot wait any longer. Our historical behaviors and policies are no longer acceptable. 

Toward A More Just and Equitable Society

What does this mean for each of us?

It means combating racism and inequality in all forms in our personal lives and in our work. It means calling out injustice, leading by example in our communities, and raising awareness about the issues that need to be discussed openly.

At Veris, this means looking at all of our internal and external practices to identify and disrupt implicit biases. It demands that we work within our industry to maintain the commitment to racial justice, and equality at the forefront.

It also means providing financial support to organizations who can make a difference now. We’ve chosen four: Movement for Black Lives, MVP (Movement Voters Project), Equal Justice Initiative, Color of Change, Minnesota Freedom Fund, and NAACP. There are many others that deserve your support, and we urge you to give to the organizations of your choice.

Now is the time for all of us to unite and create a more just, equal and equitable society.

Gender Lens Investing: Assets Grow To More Than $3.4 Billion

Gender Lens Investing: Assets Grow To More Than $3.4 Billion

Growth In Public Products Accelerates As GLI Marks 10th Anniversary 

By Patricia Farrar-Rivas and Alison Pyott

The flow of assets in Gender Lens Investing (GLI) continues to grow rapidly.

According to a new analysis by Veris Wealth Partners, asset growth in GLI products accelerated and totaled $3.4 billion as of June 30, 2019. In our 2018 GLI analysis, we reported $2.4 billion invested in GLI products.

As important, the size of the funds continued to grow, reflecting their growing popularity among individual and institutional investors. There were 10 investment products with over $100 million and six with over $250 million as of June 30, 2019.

Our analysis also showed that the gender lens market is still primarily a North American phenomenon and that the investment focus continues to be global and US large cap equities. However, there are now eight funds open in Asia/Pacific, two funds in South America and one in Africa.

Ten years after the term Gender Lens Investing was coined by the Criterion Institute, there are now more than 50 publicly available GLI products, a 300% increase since 2015.

The GLI Impact
The growth of GLI investments continues, but the real question is how is GLI improving the lives of women and girls?

The good news is that GLI is having a real impact.

More than 50% of public GLI investment products focus predominately on women in leadership and increasing gender diversity, according to Veris. This is defined differently with each product strategy, but most often is women on boards, women in the C-suite, and women in management. The focus on leadership, coupled with increasing shareholder advocacy efforts to increase board diversity, have helped. In 2009, women comprised 16% of S&P500 boards, and today they represent 26%1. Progress, yet still a lot more work to do.

The Business Case of GLI
We believe this trend is likely to continue because there’s a very compelling business case for GLI.

McKinsey & Company’s Power of Parity Report (2015) estimates global annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) could be $12 trillion higher if gender inequality was addressed. Diversity also produces terrific results. Over the past decade, many studies have confirmed the superior financial performance of public companies with strong female representation at the board level and in senior management.

The positive impact of GLI goes beyond greater representation at the leadership level.

Research now shows connections between higher proportions of women in leadership with increased environmental, social and governance performance.2

Investors are also looking for broader impact and product sponsors are starting to take notice.

More than 20% of public GLI investment products focus on broader gender factors, according to Veris. They include reducing the gender pay gap; increasing women in the workforce; lowering barriers to women working outside of the home; improving health and well-being; increasing employee engagement; and expanding products and services serving women.

And, a handful of funds are incorporating UNSDG goals including UNSDG #5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Another significant area of asset growth has been providing access to capital for women in girls. Capital flows to those initiatives are typically made by angel, venture and private equity investors. In the public markets, access to capital for women is provided primarily through CDs, CRA qualified bonds and the growing number of gender bonds.

Just the Beginning
Clearly, there is much to celebrate as GLI marks its 10th anniversary.

The brave women who dared to ask if capital markets could improve the lives of women and girls have started a movement that is increasingly gaining momentum. From a handful of investment strategies with only one CD and one mutual fund, there is now an expanding number of stakeholders who believe in the possibilities of Gender Lens Investing.

The goal for all of us is to keep pushing and demonstrating the value of GLI to an expanding universe of investors for the benefit of all.

The Veris team is especially grateful to Suzanne Biegel, Catalyst at Large and Co-Producer, GenderSmart Investing Summit for her generous collaboration, and Diana van Maasdijk, Equileap. 

12019 U.S Spencer Stuart Board Index Highlights
2Cristina Banaham and Gavrial Hasson, “Across the Board Improvements: Gender Diversity and ESG Performance” Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, September 6, 2018

The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as the provision of personalized investment advice, or an offer to sell or the solicitation of any offer to buy any securities. Rather, the contents including, without limitation, any forecasts and projections,  simply reflect the opinions and views of the authors. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change without notice. There is no guarantee that the views and opinions expressed herein will come to pass.

Furthermore, the information contained herein contains certain forward-looking statements, often characterized by words such as “believes,” “anticipates,” “plans,” “expects,” “projects,” and other similar words, that indicate future possibilities. Due to known and unknown risks, other uncertainties and factors, actual results may differ materially from the expectations portrayed in such forward-looking statements. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date of this report. 

Additionally, this document contains information derived from third party sources.  Although we believe these third party sources to be reliable, Veris Wealth Partners makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information derived from such third-party sources and takes no responsibility therefore. 

Past performance is not an indication or guarantee of future results. Investing in securities involves risks, including the potential loss of all amounts invested.

Gender Lens Investing: 2018 Is A Watershed Moment

By Patricia Farrar-Rivas, Alison Pyott, Luisamaria Ruiz Carlile

Linda Pei had a vision. In 1993, she launched the Women’s Equity Mutual Fund, the first U.S. fund investing in companies with positive track records ofhiring, promoting and generously compensating women.

Her fund marked the birth of “gender lens investing” (GLI), which is founded on the premise that investing intentionally for gender balance and equity can generate both financial and social returns.

For decades, however, there wasn’t much progress. Over the next 20 years, only four new strategies emerged explicitly incorporating gender into their financial analysis of publicly traded securities.

GLI Blossoms
Fast forward to 2018. Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen more growth in GLI in a single year than we have in the past two decades.

As of June 30th, 2018, investors had poured $2.4 billion into 35 GLI vehicles holding publicly traded securities, according to the 2017 Gender Lens Investing report from Veris.

This is a 23-fold increase from $100 million just four years ago.

These investment vehicles range from U.S. and Canadian ETFs, to French and Nigerian mutual funds, to Australian ‘gender equality bonds.’

Click here to download Gender Lens Investing: Bending the Arc of Finance for Women and Girls.

Fully Diversified GLI Portfolios
As the number of GLI vehicles has increased, investors have begun making the leap from investing in single products to constructing entire, fully diversified GLI portfolios with clear missions.

Our 2018 report highlights three of these portfolios, each tackling distinct social issues: gender-based violence, women’s chronic under-representation in leadership, and the need for innovation in women’s health care.

This week, Alison Pyott and Luisamaria Ruiz Carlile of Veris will be sharing this research at theGender-Smart Investing Summit, taking place in London on November 1-2. The goal of the summit, expected to attract 300 champions of GLI, is “moving gender-smart capital with vision and velocity.”

Linda Pei would be proud that her vision endured.

Even greater would be her delight at the accelerating flow of capital into public market GLI products: the first $1 billion took 25 years. The second $1 billion took 12 months. How long to $100 billion? The first $1 trillion?

Racial Parity In America

Racial Parity in America: Making Progress, But Still A Long Way To Go

By Patricia Farrar-Rivas, CEO

At the recent Confluence Philanthropy’s Practitioners Gathering, I couldn’t help but notice the growth of interest and attendance in the panels with a racial equity focus.

At the 2016 event, the racial equity panel I attended barely attracted 10 people. This year, there were two back-to-back racial equity panels, and the rooms were packed.

I left the conference more emboldened than I have been in a while.

The reason for my optimism is that people of color attending the event, as well as some allies, brought the root issues of racial equity and equality to the impact investing conversation. There was more frank discussion about the topic than I had ever heard at a gathering of impact investors.

Thinking Bigger
We have so many urgent and entrenched social and environmental issues to solve, while climate change is breathing down our neck. They not only include racial equality and equity, but also gender equality and equity, workplace and domestic violence, mass incarceration, gun violence, access to both primary and secondary education, plastics in ocean, lead in our homes and schools, access to healthcare, to name just a few.

All of these issues are important, and we cannot solve any of them on their own. We can’t take a siloed approach. We must raise them all with the same level of intention. They are all symptoms of economic systems built on flawed constructs of race, gender, class and entitlement.

So, I am also very encouraged to see more impact investing funds founded and managed by women and people of color. Today, the diversity of those who currently control and influence capital allocations simply don’t reflect the full breadth of our gender or racial demographics. The key to solving our multitude of issues is democratizing the flow of capital. Changing whose hands are on the levers may be just what we need to benefit people and planet.

Changing the Conversation
Over the years, impact investing gatherings like Confluence Philanthropy have attracted those seeking to change the impact of capital flows and who controls the powerful levers of money. There are an increasing number of diverse voices in the conversation.

Big Path Capital, for example, has put on a number of regional diversity conferences, including the Impact Capitalism Summit, to highlight multiple diverse fund managers. The quality and number of funds available they have showcased has been truly impressive.

What’s also evident is that the growing awareness of gender lens investing has opened the door to candid dialogue about racial equality and equity.

In the past year, gender lens investing has moved into the mainstream. It now has a seat at the table with other major issues for women, such as access to healthcare, control of reproductive rights, freedom from sexual harassment, among others. Racial equality and equity should have a seat at the table, too.

It takes work to recognize and reverse established biases, both personally and culturally. We need to be supportive as we forge ahead, but we also have to keep pushing. There hasn’t been nearly enough progress.

We are at an opportune moment to listen and to flip the conversation on its head. Low-income people, people of color, women and girls and our planet have de-risked investments to their own detriment for too long. Yes, time’s up. If change is to come, we must all work together to make sure we seize this moment.