In an interview, Ms. Kalpana Raina recalled her beginnings in impact investing. It was 2009 when she found herself on a “roadshow” with Durreen Shahnaz, founder of Shujog and IIX, to raise interest on the sector which was still in its embryonic stage. She had observed then that “despite all the credentials, despite all the access and networks that both of us have, this is going to be a very tough task.”
The story speaks volumes of the beginnings of the space and how far it has come today. It is also a reminder of how a lot of it begun with a handful of pioneering women, coming out of mainstream finance with a desire to make positive change. However, the narrative poses two, nearly contradictory, questions.
Firstly, why women? Women’s affinity for impact investing is intuitive. Ms. Raina observed that women have a more ‘holistic’ approach to investment. Traditionally, issues such as healthcare, education, women’s rights, child care, have always fallen upon women to worry about. For women, “no matter how unconnected their lives are to some of these issues, they inherently have more sensitivity towards them“. This makes women a natural fit in impact investing.
Secondly, then why so few women? Whether it is impact investing, venture capital or early seed capital, there are very few women. The answer, Ms. Raina said, is within complex social and historical dynamics, that have resulted in women having less access to investment capital to begin with, especially in Asia. She disagrees with the assumption that women investors are just more risk averse. “It is more nuanced than that” she said. “Women are more patient. They don’t jump in, want more information and seek better outcomes.”
As more sensitive investors, the need for more women in the space is an obvious conclusion. Effective outreach is needed, claims Ms. Raina, including changes in schools, undergraduate and MBA courses, to highlight the message to women that this space is out there; that impact investing is an option!