What is gender lens investing? Sangita Reddy, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Nandini Piramal, and Vani Kola share their thoughts

What is gender lens investing? Sangita Reddy, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Nandini Piramal, and Vani Kola share their thoughts
Business Insider India

  • In recent years, mainstream investors have been incorporating a gender lens while making investment decisions and have started recognizing the strength of women as a market force.
  • However, a Global Gender Gap Report 2020 by the World Economic Forum said gender parity would not be attained for nearly a century, globally.
  • Speaking at the Global Trends Festival 2020, leading women business leaders have raised the need to break barriers and bring about faster, sustainable change to empower more women.
Gender lens investing is gaining ground across emerging economies over the past few years, but it still has a long way to go when it comes to India. A relatively new concept introduced around a decade ago, gender lens investing is based on investing in a women-founded business or a gender-diverse company that promotes equality and women's empowerment and provides improved financial returns.

In 2018, a McKinsey report suggested that India — then the world's fastest-growing economy — could add over $770 billion to its GDP by 2025 by ensuring equal opportunities for women. And that's the need of the hour — the imperative need for faster change in the workforce landscape.

Speaking at Business Insider'sInsider's Global Trends Festival 2020 — Biocon's Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Apollo Hospital's Dr Sangita Reddy, Piramal Enterprises' Nandini Piramal, and Kalaari Capital's Vani Kola — shared how women entrepreneurs can break the barriers and how investors can shape the market for better.
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"Nearly half of India's potential workforce is underutilized and while the pandemic has truly brought to the fore the word ‘unprecedented,’ one thing is very clear: the change is inevitable," Sangita Reddy, FICCI President and joint MD of Apollo Hospitals said.

Unlocking India’s suppressed potential

A Global Gender Gap Report 2020
by the World Economic Forum said gender parity would not be attained for nearly a century, globally. When it comes to India, the gender gap has been deeply rooted for decades. And since 2006, the gap has only widened. Until 2018, three in every four women in India did not work — indicating one of the lowest participation rates in the world. While India’s GDP grew from 2000 to 2019, women’s participation in the workforce has declined sharply. They account for only 17% of the total GDP output.
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YearWomen’s participation in workforce
200030.4%
200532%
201023%
201523.5%
201923.4%
Source: World Bank

Moreover, women in India earn only a fifth of men’s income. There are merely 13% of women in leadership positions. Furthermore, women are missing from India’s buzzing startup world too.

What is gender lens investing? Sangita Reddy, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Nandini Piramal, and Vani Kola share their thoughts
Business Insider India

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“I think what we have missed as women or as perceiving women in the workplace is the equitable recognition in terms of the roles they play. We always undervalue them because we think a woman can be paid lower. In an organisation like ours (Biocon), we pay for the role and not gender and that has made a huge difference to us as a company” Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Founder and CEO, Biocon, said at the Global Trends Festival 2020.

The need to bring about equal responsibilities at home
The other deterrent is the lack of work-life balance. Thousands of women who are a part of the formal workforce also run a household — making it difficult for them to concentrate and excel at work. Nandini Piramal believes that there’s a need to change the expectations and share responsibilities at home. And this COVID-19 pandemic has brought this issue to the forefront as well.

“For the first time a lot of people did not have any help at home. For the first time, I know, my male colleagues were told to run the household together — to pitch in and make sure kids go to school, the washing is done and the food made. If as a woman you are dealing with home, children and work and you want to succeed in all of them then there are not many hours in the day. So we have to change how we bring up our men,” Piramal said.
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The lens of gender investing

In recent years, mainstream investors have been incorporating a gender lens while making investment decisions and have started recognizing the strength of women as a market force. In India, there are some investors like Gray Matters Capital and Innoven Capital hold similar strategies while investing in startups.

However, Innoven Capital says the number of funded startups with at least one female co-founder declined from 17% in 2018 to 12% in 2019.

“We have to create systematic programmes. In the US, Melinda Gates has a fund for women entrepreneurs. Early indication is that it has actually been successful. We also have to work on increasing the base, which allows women to think about leadership roles,” Vani Kola, Kalaari Capital said.
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Kola added there’s still a lot of work to be done to ensure ground-level entrepreneurship. Moreover, there’s also a need to raise awareness about investing in women leaders.

While the situation has been challenging for first-time women entrepreneurs, what also can make the difference is the way women present their ideas to a venture capitalist.


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“The difference between men and women when they present to a venture capitalist is that a man makes a small idea seem very big and a woman, unfortunately, dwarfs her big idea. I say why are you like that? This is a great idea but you are making it sound as if it's trivial,” said Kiran Mazumdar Shaw. She believes that women should rid themselves of this self-doubt and present their ideas with more confidence.

Gender lens investing — what needs to be done
“I really believe if there can be a small carve-out to focus on women development and women empowerment -- I mean that in terms of financial inclusion -- a lot of miracles can happen. I think everyone needs a helping hand, not a handout. If we can create it that way a lot can happen,” Kola said.

Vani Kola suggests dedicating a platform specifically for women entrepreneurs, like the one established by the Telangana government, which can help them get through the beginning stages and provide them confidence. “If we can find something to incubate and support that early start and the capacity to have confidence, we can create an effect,” she added.
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With steps like ensuring more leadership roles for women and investments with a gender lens focus, India can push for more women empowerment to help transform the economy, build an equal society and a better world.

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