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Project Sage 3.0: Wharton’s Gender Lens Investing Report

By Erin O'connor | Wed Aug 05 2020
In July, Wharton’s Social Impact Initiative published Project Sage 3.0: Tracking Venture Capital, Private Equity, and Private Debt with a Gender Lens authored by Suzanne Biegel and Sandi M. Hunt. This report illustrates key findings on the current initiative to invest through a gender lens and how it’s being applied in impact investing.
“Gender lens investing” is a relatively new term which emerged about ten years ago, and it’s when investments are made to not only generate financial returns, but also to create positive impacts for women. Over the last decade, this ecosystem has expanded to include numerous funds and companies and billions of dollars in investments. Project Sage 3.0 aims to track and present relevant data on the ecosystem and the current trends and insights within this fast growing field. Over the past year in 2019, Project Sage collected data with contributions from 138 funds and structured vehicles, including RENEW.
Key findings pulled directly from Project Sage 3.0 Report (page 6).
The number of funds continues to grow significantly.

Project Sage 3.0 in 2020 identified 138 total funds deploying capital with a gender lens, up 58.6% from the 87 funds in 2019’s Project Sage 2.0, and up 138% from the 58 funds in 2017’s initial Project Sage report. Almost 50% of these funds launched in 2019.
As in our previous reports, gender lens funds are still predominantly first time funds.

Almost two thirds — 61% — of funds were first time funds, which are first funds from a given team with this thematic focus. The partners may not be first time fund managers, but this is their first fund with this focus or under this name.
Geographic diversity continues to increase.

In the original 2017 Project Sage, approximately 80% of reported investments were U.S.-focused. Now, Project Sage 3.0 showed that 38.1% reported North America as their investment target geography (this does not include the global funds). This demonstrates an increase in the diversity of targeted investment geography, with significant focus on regions including Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America.
Total capital raised has cleared $4.8 billion.

The total capital raised, among those firms who allowed us to publish capital raised, was approximately $4.8 billion, more than doubling from Project Sage 2.0’s reported $2.2 billion.
Gender lens investing is still broadly defined.

When we gave funds six options for how they defined gender lens investing, and asked them to select all that apply, approximately 50% of funds included all five of the following classifications in their definition of gender lens investing, suggesting that this is still a very broad definition.
  • Advancing women in finance: fund managers, on investment committees (ICs), etc.
  • Advancing women in leadership: C-suite positions, entrepreneurship, boards, etc.
  • Advancing products and services that improve the lives of women.
  • Advancing companies that have a positive impact on the women they employ.
  • Advancing companies that improve the lives of women in their ecosystem (supply chain members, etc.)
Many funds’ investment criteria focus on gender as well as other forms of diversity.

Among the funds surveyed, 45% consider gender as one of several key impact priorities of equal importance. Other forms of diversity publicly stated in their investment criteria include racial/ethnic diversity (24.6%) and LGBTQIA diversity (7.2%).
Make sure to read the full report here: Project Sage 3.0 .
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