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26 February 2021
Growing Gender Lens Investing in Emerging Markets
The past five years have seen increased interest, activity and innovation in gender lens investing (GLI) around the world. Many GLI initiatives, involving both publicly traded securities and private placements, focus on investing in women-owned or -led small and medium-sized businesses, companies with safe and inclusive workplaces, or firms whose products or services benefit women and girls. Other GLI efforts aim to mainstream gender equality into the policies and practices of development finance institutions and impact investment funds. Still others take a broader view, seeking to transform the way money and markets are used to reduce the manifestations of gender inequalities, including gender-based violence. However, while this dynamic, practice-driven field has gained visibility and momentum in recent years, and is the subject of numerous projects, conferences and collaborations, gender lens investing remains relatively modest in scale.
In the editors’ view, there are two main obstacles to GLI’s further growth. First, the field to date has been led and shaped predominantly by actors in the Global North. The relative lack of ownership and voice by emerging-economy practitioners restricts expansion, especially into geographies where patriarchy imposes its most severe forms of oppression, is a serious limitation.
Second, gender lens investing also suffers from an underdeveloped body of critical and empirical scholarship. Successful movements and markets require deep inquiry and open debate to inform and enable their learning, improvements, scaling and sustainability. So far, gender lens investing has been influenced primarily by the proprietary models and discourse of development finance institutions, fund managers and advocates. It is time to build the independent knowledge base that will accompany GLI toward 2030 and beyond. Moreover, such scholarship should be truly global in origin, benefiting from significant contributions by engaged scholars and reflective practitioners from the Global South as well as the Global North.
More immediately, it is also crucial to understand more fully the disproportionate negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on women and girls across the world and what responses are most appropriate and effective. Indeed, while there is an urgent need to accelerate post-pandemic gender lens investing of all types, pressure on public and private sector budgets could, in fact, result in a deceleration of GLI activity.
The purpose of this special issue is to contribute to the construction of a vibrant and vital corpus of knowledge on and for the field by gathering and sharing leading-edge theoretical, empirical and case-based research on GLI, both qualitative and quantitative, drawn from a wide range of disciplines, including, for example: development studies, economics, environmental studies, finance, gender studies, legal studies, management studies, public policy, and sociology, among others. Special efforts will be made to seek contributions from authors from emerging economies and to encourage scholar-practitioner collaborations. Through the special issue and other research in the GLI space, it is hoped that the contours of a longer-term knowledge agenda will become clearer and can be collectively pursued, with rigour and energy—accurately reflecting local perspectives on emerging market needs and opportunities—to help build a gender lens investing field that is scaled, inclusive and sustainable.
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While not an exhaustive list, the types of papers that will be accepted include:
- Theoretical development and analysis of gender lens investing through single or multi-disciplinary frames
- Conceptual interrogations of GLI with respect to intersectionality, gender identity, climate change and other cross-cutting themes
- Studies of leadership, innovation, and challenges of organizations and networks working to grow GLI in the Global South
- Empirical research on the performance of gender lens investing programs or funds in emerging markets
- Comparative assessments of the effectiveness of GLI strategies or models, including non-financial support for GLI, including in fragile settings
- Analyses of the impacts and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic for GLI, and its role in post-pandemic recovery and resilience
- Case studies of development finance organizations and impact funds engaged in gender mainstreaming and gender equality policy implementation
- Examinations of the application of a gender lens to large-scale green infrastructure projects or public procurement processes
- Research on approaches, methods, and tools for managing and measuring the impacts of investment with a gender lens
- Assessments of public policies in emerging economies aimed at driving and accelerating gender lens investing.
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