Talk 3: We need to talk about gender equal investments
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Global Utmaning in partnership with the U.S Embassy to Sweden arranged a breakfast seminar on the topic of Gender Equal investments. We were honored to welcome the ambassador Erik Ramanathan from the U.S Embassy, Lin Lerpold, Associate Professor at Stockholm School of Economics, Henrik Torstensson, partner at Alliance Venture & Co-founder of Lifesum, Ylva Lundkvist Fridh, CEO of Mikrofonden Sweden, and Charlotte Sundåker, Co-founder and Chairwoman at Ownershift.
The panel consisted of investment, finance and gender equality experts who discussed and highlighted the importance of diversity and inclusion in decision-making spheres which in turn is thought to promote innovative solutions to the climate crisis that leaves no-one behind. When a big part of the population is being overlooked, it leads to a waste of intellectual capacity which will not benefit the pool of solutions put forward to address this global emergency. Diversity and inclusion are important factors to unlock innovation and promote new solutions to the climate crisis, but are also important factors in making sure policies reflect the actual needs of all global citizens. As Charlotte Sundåker, Co-funder at Ownershift mentioned, ”if we don’t include all people, we will never be able to solve the huge ecological challenges we are facing”.
Ylva Lundkvist Fridh, Mikrofonden highlighted some efforts that are being done in order to fund diversity. For instance, 60% of Mikrofondens investments have targeted female founders. By putting equal emphasis on social, economic and ecological return of investments, they are paving the way for more sustainable investment practices. “If we want inclusion, it means we have to start doing things in a different way. For example, if you are a VC fund and you want to have a gender equal portfolio and you don’t today – you have to change your criterias, due-diligence process and way of working. If we don’t change, we are blaming the victims and saying that it is their own fault they are being excluded”. In many decision-making spheres, including the ones where solutions for the climate emergency are being ideated or funded, women’s innovative force is unfortunately being overlooked.
To this background the panel raised the issues related to norms. The panel agreed that a general increase in knowledge about investment and entrepreneurship is required to build future capacity. The knowledge must be made available at a younger age, and both girls and boys must be involved. In this way, conditions are created for greater equality in the future. Henrik Torstensson, Alliance Venture, added that “we need role-models for female entrepreneurs, who challenge current norms. It is young people who have to attack the challenges of tomorrow by challenging current norms”. Sundåker continued “we need to create new working cultures, so that women can both be entrepreneurs and build a family”. Lin Lerpold, Associate Professor at Stockholm School of Economics acknowledged that “given the institutional context in Sweden with the welfare system, it might be the case that norms must change rather than merely institutions”.
Sundåker also acknowledged the importance of ownership in relation to equality. “It might look equal, by counting the heads in the room, seeing that both women and men have a seat at the table, but the men are still the owners. Men own twice as much as women in all areas of ownership in Sweden, regardless if it’s in the agricultural or the health care sector”. Lerpold broadened the perspectives by emphasizing that The International Women’s Day is about equality and equity, that we also should move beyond gender and that it should not only be about women. “Sweden needs to be able to collect data on not merely the differential developments regarding peoples sex or age, but need to include other intersectional variables as well. And it’s not only about representation, you may be invited to the party, but the question is whether you are also asked to dance? Women need to be able to participate and have empowerment in the discussions, rather than merely being there or being represented as tokens”. New systems and a systematic shift need to be done in the investment landscape in terms of regulation and norms, in order to make sure that no one is left behind. Making diverse gender-conscious investments is a pathway to sustainable development, and it is proven to increase performance, creativity and profitability.
After the panel discussion the moderator opened up for questions from the audience, who raised the question on what one can do on an individual level to promote inclusion in one’s professional life? The audience also pointed out that a lot can be learned from looking at best practices in other parts of the world where women are highly represented in entrepreneurship. At the end of the seminar both the panelists and guests expressed that they were pleased with the discussion and that they found it both informative and inspiring. Thank you for another great discussion at the third and last Sustainability Breakfast.