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It is a common misconception that gender lens investment is only about boosting women in leadership roles. A group of investment firms are on a mission to build understanding around this vital area of investment, showcasing its many facets and demonstrating its potential for strong returns.
Gender lens investing or GLI is the practice of investing for financial return, while also improving gender equality, through boosting economic opportunities, and social wellbeing for girls and women and challenging gender stereotypes.
The Frontier Brokers Network are seven investment firms working together to address gender inequality in the Asia Pacific. The network highlights the impact of gender-based constraints and uncovers new opportunities for businesses to support men and women to participate equally in the economy. The results of our collaboration are new financial instruments to reach social entrepreneurs through four projects: Impact Connect in Indonesia and Cambodia; BIDUK in Indonesia; Equity@Scale in Singapore and Asia Pacific Impact Notes across Asia-Pacific.
This is a figure I often use to highlight the issue we are addressin: while 67% of global asset owners have identified gender diversity as an area of interest, however, only 2% of the impact bonds issued last year had a gender focus. We want to show there is a huge opportunity in investing in this area and many ways to do so.
To help build awareness of the opportunity in gender lens investing, the Frontier Brokers Network have also developed a collection of free resources and learning tools. The tools include a series of podcasts – each on a different area of gender lens investing.
Sharing stories of success
Farouk Meralli and his digital pharma business is the subject of one of the podcast episodes. Farouk started ‘SwipeRx (formerly mClinica)’ when he realised that there were tens of thousands of independent pharmacies across Asia – mainly run by women – with no technology systems or market access. He realised the majority of pharmacy customers were also women and they were missing out on consistent health advice as well as received unfair pricing on the products they needed.
Farouk developed a common mobile platform to connect pharmacies in Asia, and with his first investor took the business to the Philippines. He has since expanded across South East Asia. The app provides training to pharmacy staff on how to provide health advice and explain the products they are stocking, and also connects business owners to the supply chain so they can access better pricing on their medicines.
“In the end, the consumers, who are mainly women, are not only getting better access to the right medicine at cheaper prices, they’re also getting better advice and counsel from pharmacists. We are solving the availability, affordability and quality challenges of medicines in lower to middle income countries.” explains Farouk.
Another episode focuses on businesswoman Lim Ponny, who runs a wholesale fish feeding business in Cambodia. Women like Ms Ponny often struggle to get financing for the business in a country where women may not receive similar opportunities to men and often don’t have the same paperwork and collateral as men. Ms Ponny connected with Chamroeun Microfinance, which provided her with a business loan as well as access to technical training. As her business grew, she was able to employ other women and promote fair working conditions in her supply chain, sharing her skills and learnings.
We wanted to highlight Ms Ponny’s story because women are rarely the wholesalers in supply chains. This means women can be exposed to violence and intimidation in value chains, especially in factory, agricultural or retail settings. Stories like Ms Ponny’s should encourage institutional investors to look at impacts across supply chains. There needs to be more women leaders in these wholesale businesses who are consciously thinking about safe working conditions for women employees and also who can share their skills along the whole supply chain.
Learning tools for everyone
The learning tools created by our group, which include the podcast series, videos, and blogs, are now available for free on their website and can be used for presentations, other websites and on social media.
To access the free resources visit the website: here
Find out more about Frontier Brokers Network Member Organisations: