Despite traction in gendered approaches to investment across multiple platforms, women still represent an underutilized force for sustainable development and remain underserved in terms of access to capital, market linkages, and resources needed to improve their economic position. Closing the gender gap is not only a social imperative but also a key ingredient in fueling economic growth.

Women play catalytic roles in advancing sustainable development goals by enhancing productivity, fostering economic growth, and improving social outcomes. In emerging economies, in particular, countries that have placed women at the center of development assistance and poverty reduction strategies have experienced stronger growth in their local economies as compared to those countries that have pushed gender-neutral policies. Advancing women’s equality across the public, private, and philanthropic sectors could add an estimated $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025. Simply put, investing in women makes good business sense.

How do we elevate the role of women so that they can be seen as investment opportunities to accelerate impact, rather than distinct investment criterion?

Gender-lens investing principles seek to fill this gap in our current investment landscape; at its core, gender-lens investing uses platforms such as IIX to identify investment opportunities, business models, products, and market segments that promote and fund the livelihoods of women and girls. This results in a convergence of market-based principles that magnify financial returns alongside women’s empowerment.

As the pioneer in impact investing, IIX has been actively applying a gender-lens to its platform since its founding, with women as one of its three pillars of operation. Gender-lens investing serves as the cornerstone of Pacific RISE (Pacific Readiness for Investment in Social Enterprise)—a pilot initiative implemented by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to pioneer and facilitate an impact investment market in the Pacific.

As part of this initiative, IIX has partnered with Pacific Trade Invest Australia and Australian Business Volunteers (ABV) to build the capacity of impact enterprises deemed suitable to attract investments in three high-impact sectors at the intersection point of Fiji’s social progress and economic growth: sustainable agriculture, eco-tourism, and fisheries. Underlying the project is a built-in gender lens, which prioritizes entities focused on empowering women to become solutions for sustainable development. Using a gender analysis framework, IIX and its partners are conducting on-site assessments of enterprises and organizing meetings with local stakeholders. The purpose is to determine selected enterprises’ level of investment readiness, analyze their potential to scale, and identify opportunities to attract investment capital. 

IIX and its partners address gaps in Fiji’s investment landscape by hosting workshops and mentoring sessions as well as providing localized solutions to help women-owned businesses or businesses prioritizing women to build their organizational capacity and amplify long-term impact. IIX’s work with high-impact enterprises helps address structural barriers to access to funds and deployment in the Pacific’s investment environment and promote inclusive business practices that advance gender equity across the value chain.

Gender-lens investing can help create a more inclusive ecosystem by filling critical gaps in the social capital market and investing platforms that keep women capital constrained, and prevent women entrepreneurs and women-run businesses from attracting investments and scaling impact. Creating an enabling environment for impact investments to thrive can only happen when women are seen as equal players in improving economic and social outcomes.