How to invest in women-led companies
Investing in women-led companies

Canadians like to think of ourselves as global leaders in equality, diversity and inclusion, and in lots of ways we are. Before we talk about how to support companies with women at the top, let’s set the stage by looking at why it’s still so crucial that we do.

When it comes to finance, men and women are simply not treated equally in Canada:

  • On average, a woman working full time makes only 87 cents for every dollar a man does.
  • Women with a bachelor’s degree make $14,000 less each year for the same job that a man does.

    If we look at more senior roles, even though the overall salaries are higher, the discrepancy in pay and opportunity gets even worse:

    • Of all the board seats on companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange, only 14% are held by women.
    • 40% of companies in Canada don’t have a single woman on their board at all.
    • Of the 1,200 executives at Canada’s 249 publicly traded companies, the pay gap widens to women only earning 69 cents in comparison to men

      Sorry, fellas – women make better CEOs

      Detractors commonly like to downplay the need to support women business leaders as merely a good deed, and not based on solid results. The truth couldn’t be more opposite: When it comes to delivering a return on investment, women CEOs blow men out of the water despite the discriminatory hurdles they face.

      Though women-founded businesses usually raise about half as much funding as their male counterparts – an. average of $1 million less to start with – they end up delivering twice as much revenue per dollar invested.

      For every dollar they raise, women-led startups generated 78 cents in revenue, compared to only 31 cents for companies created by men – yet only 4% of Canadian CEOs are women.

      A new breed of forward-thinking venture capitalist groups, led by women with a sole focus on women, are looking to generate smart, successful businesses by ensuring women raise the money they deserve to start a business, and then earn as much as men once they get to the top of their fields.

      For the Female Founders Fund, the headline on their site reflects the research: “Women make great better entrepreneurs.” Their portfolio covers 36 female-founded companies led by a desire to disrupt their respective industries. This early-stage investment group both actively scouts innovate new ventures led by female entrepreneurs as well as accepting applications for funding from up-and-coming women business owners themselves. Investment in Female Founders Fund or any of their portfolio companies is an immediate and direct support to women leaders on the frontlines of creating and scaling their own businesses.

      Learn the ABCs of ESG investing

      If you have an investment advisor or like to play the markets yourself, you’ll want to learn the fundamentals of investing with Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) in mind.

      ESG factors help clarify what types of businesses are worth investing in based on their overall practices, the social impact of their policies, and how they aim to make the world a better place. It’s the lens you can use to make sure that you’re investing in companies you can also believe in and feel good about

      Each investment firm or advisor you choose to have invest your cash will have a different approach to ESG or (and this would be a real red flag if you care about supporting socially responsible companies) they might not have one at all.

      Talk to your advisor about how you can make sure your money is going into companies that reflect your values. There are a number of funds that focus on:

      • Women in leadership roles, and ones that invest in companies with more women leaders and policies that proactively advance and advocate for women’s needs;
      • Community-building funds that provide loans specifically to support women-owned business and companies that provide community services;
      • Accountability, and companies with transparent, sustainable equity and inclusion policies toward women and a variety of other under-represented groups.

        Span The Women’s Investment Gap

        No matter your gender, it’s up to all of us to call out inequity wherever we see it and actively fight for something better. When it comes to putting your money where your mouth is, choosing to invest in and support female founders and women-led companies is one of the most direct and impactful ways to show your support — financial and otherwise — for these trailblazing business leaders. (If you’ve got your sights set on investing in the U.S., Melinda Gates’ Pivotal Ventures proactively supports partners that share in her vision of “advancing progress for women and families in the United States.”)

        When it comes to investing, women tend to be more risk-averse and wait longer to save money, despite the fact that the make less of it. Add in the fact that many women chose to take time from work to raise children, and you end up with women typically saving only half as much as men for their retirement.

        One of Pivotal Ventures’ key partnerships is with Ellevest a U.S. investment firm created by former wealth management CEO Sallie Crawcheck. She is addressing gender inequity in the investing world head-on, both with the products she creates but also by directly addressing the ways women are patronized and demeaned by typical language and attitudes around investing.

        Krawcheck sees an opportunity for women to see investing as a form of empowerment, and that the first step to getting more of them interested in to address the industry-wide habit of mansplaining advice when it’s focused on female clients.

        “Women have effectively internalized the messages that our society sends them about money, and the result is that the primary emotion so many of us feel about money is shame. We feel shame when we are in debt; we feel shame because we spend too much, certainly; we feel shame because we earn too little–and we even feel shame because we earn too much,” Krawcheck wrote in an op-ed for Fast Company.

        Here in Canada, one of the pioneers in the movement to talk to women about money in brand new ways is Tuula Jalasjaa, founder of The Women’s Collection. Its mission is to support women locally and internationally with Canada’s first online investing platform devoted solely to women.

        Jeremy Elder is a paid Sonnet spokesperson.
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