Means&Matters
Stories of Money and sustainability

4 Groups Financially Empowering Women—for the Good of the Planet

BY Keph Senett

Jul 9th 2021

"It felt so powerful to take the financial reins and recognize what my money was actually achieving, to see it as a lever and to understand this lever is a climate solution."
—Dr. Julie Pullen, co-founder of Women Power Our Planet

Over the course of her career, oceanographer and meteorologist Dr. Julie Pullen has participated in environmental projects around the globe where she’s witnessed first-hand how the effects of climate change can devastate communities. Her desire to do something about it brought her to a 2019 Extinction Rebellion event in New York City.

Dawn Gallagher, an environmentalist and media personality, was also at the gathering looking for more ways to take climate action.

Gallagher and Dr. Pullen hit on a novel idea: What if women divested en masse from banks and investments that support fossil fuels?

Women’s power is underrated.

—Dawn Gallagher, Women Power Our Planet

“Women’s power is underrated. We know a lot of climate catastrophes could be mitigated by shutting down the fossil fuel industry, but we’re not, because of money,” Gallagher says, in an interview. “We want to help women break up with the banks that support polluters.”

Their idea became the foundation of their organization, Women Power Our Planet.

Why women? Women are emerging as sustainability leaders. The founders of the movement All We Can Save, which grew out of a book by the same name, are leading a global effort to get more women into climate leadership. Meanwhile, women entrepreneurs lead their male counterparts on their commitment to sustainability. It’s also becoming clear that women are more likely than men to invest based on their values1.

Dr. Julie Pullen and Dawn Gallagher, co-founders of Women Power Our Planet

“We have not even begun to understand how much women are really leading on climate action, and are so effective at leading this,” Gallagher says.

Women Power Our Planet is part of a growing ecosystem of women-led organizations that work towards women’s financial empowerment to address the climate emergency. Like Women Power Our Planet, these organizations are helping women achieve financial empowerment in their earning, their investing, and their charitable giving.

4 Financial Organizations for Women, By Women

1. Women Power Our Planet

Organizing women's growing financial power

Impact investing, or investing to promote social good, is already a powerhouse with a market size of around $715 billion2 in 2020. Women’s growing role as sustainability leaders positions them to be a big part of the impact investing movement as their financial clout increases as well.

According to a recent Gallup poll, men and women reported nearly equal input into financial decision-making. Women are also making inroads into C-suite positions3 which means they have more of their own money to leverage despite a persistent gender wage gap that still has women earning around around 80 percent4 of what men do.

Perhaps the greatest driver of change is the coming Great Wealth Transfer, expected to move as much as $68 trillion from baby boomers to their heirs5, with much of it going into the hands of American women.

In short, women may be on the verge of gaining a lot more financial power. And that’s good news.

“Women don’t want to be invested in warfare, the tobacco industry, fossil fuels,” Gallagher says. “We can have more of a circular economy and a regenerative economy, as opposed to a death economy. “

Women Power Our Planet hosts events and uses online organizing to educate women on making smart investments and banking guided by sustainability and climate action. The organization hosts large events, small groups, and collaborations with other like-minded organizations. In just two years, hundreds of women have reported to the organization their decision to switch to sustainable banking and investing.

2. Working Solutions

Helping women start up

To deploy capital, first you need to have capital, and women’s financial power isn’t growing equitably. A substantial share of the assets expected to change hands in the Great Wealth Transfer will move down family lines, which will benefit women but also may compound the Black-white wealth gap6. Financially empowering all women requires supporting those in racialized or otherwise marginalized groups.

That’s where Working Solutions comes in. The largest micro-lender in the San Francisco Bay area for early-stage businesses and start-ups, the organization has invested $22 million into the community through microloans and grants since its inception.

“Our target is low-income individuals. Within that, we have an extremely high level of support for women,” says Working Solutions CEO Sara Ravazi, in an interview. “A lot of what we do is to demystify the financials and the loan process. We don’t have quotas, so we can spend time with a new business owner, even if it’s only a $5,000 loan.”

Working Solutions Staff: Team photo on Zoom

This kind of mentorship can help get ideas off the ground, but the Working Solutions approach also focuses on longevity. “We also provide up to five years of business consulting after the underwriting,” Ravazi says. “And we go through a regimented curriculum of business consulting. We call it a mini MBA, but it’s curated so the business owner can absorb it.”

About 60 percent of Working Solutions’ portfolio is women business owners, and they’re aiming to raise that to 70 percent. In the last few years, 70 percent of their total dollars have gone to women and 60 percent to communities of color.

3. Professional BusinessWomen of California

Channeling women's money toward women

It’s a truism that networking is a key to business success, but research7 suggests that exclusion by men, along with internalized barriers like imposter syndrome, may be (in concert with other factors) holding women back from actively participating in networking events, and therefore reaping career benefits.

That’s a problem. In addition to missed mentorship opportunities and community support, they’re foregoing professional opportunities and losing out on business. This means lost financial benefits.

“Never has there been a more critical time to provide women with the tools to achieve professional success,” says Nicole Soluri, CEO of Professional BusinessWomen of California. The organization offers women’s networking events and skills development resources as a way to actualize its vision is 50/50 gender representation in business.

“We have seen several positive steps forward in terms of gender equity, diverse and inclusive workplaces, and recognition that women and diverse perspectives belong in the corporate board room,” Soluri says. “I have great optimism around what we can accomplish.”

4. How Women Lead

Leveling the networking playing field

Studies on charitable giving8 indicate that women from all income levels tend to give back more than men. This creates a golden opportunity when paired with women’s demonstrated amenability to investing their values.

How Women Give is the philanthropic arm of How Women Lead, a women’s leadership organization that’s building a virtuous cycle of financially empowered women helping to financially empower more women.

One strategy has been to direct funds to projects that target women and girls. These gender-specific groups currently receive only 1.6 percent of charitable giving9 in the United States. How Women Give channels women’s philanthropy into grants and volunteerism to benefit organizations solving community-based problems that impact women and girls in marginalized communities.

The organization’s investment arm, How Women Invest, offers money, mentorship, and networking to visionary female entrepreneurs. It is also a venture capital firm with a focus on women of color.

Women at a How Women Lead networking event

By encouraging women’s leadership as entrepreneurs, C-suite executives, and investors, How Women Lead is positioned to take advantage of women’s growing financial influence to promote equality and sustainability.

Investing by Women for Women—and the Planet

Whether channeling women’s financial power or teaching them the skills to grow their wealth, all of these organizations are investing for impact—in women. In the wealth management world, impact investing is hardly new, but investing that centers on gender, particularly in relation to climate issues, is still an emerging practice.

“Women’s investment is an overlooked climate solution.

—Dr. Julie Pullen, Women Power Our Planet

Most widely referred to as investing with a gender lens10, this approach is inclusive, equitable, and diverse. Gender- and climate-lens investing centers women and women’s power in the service of a just and environmentally sane economy. Researchers have found that women bring unique and powerful solutions to the battle against climate change. By supporting women’s financial empowerment, these organizations are investing in women, and therefore investing in the planet.

“A lot of people think of climate tech as just carbon sequestration but the solutions are way more vast, including the oceans.” Dr. Pullen says. “And women’s investment is an overlooked climate solution. The lens is planetary stewardship.”

Footnotes

  1. BCG, “Managing the Next Decade of Women’s Wealth” https://www.bcg.com/publications/2020/managing-next-decade-women-wealth
  2. Global Impact Investing Network, 2020 Annual Impact Investor Survey https://thegiin.org/research/publication/impinv-survey-2020
  3. McKinsey and Company, “Women as the next wave of growth in US wealth management”, https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/financial-services/our-insights/women-as-the-next-wave-of-growth-in-us-wealth-management
  4. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics “Highlights of women’s earnings in 2019” https://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/womens-earnings/2019/home.htm
  5. Cerulli Associates, The Great Wealth Transfer, https://info.cerulli.com/HNW-Transfer-of-Wealth-Cerulli.html.
  6. Brookings, “Examining the Black-white wealth gap” https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2020/02/27/examining-the-black-white-wealth-gap/
  7. Science Daily, “Women build less effective professional networks than men as they underestimate self-worth” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181115104647.htm
  8. Wall Street Journal, “The Gender Gap in Charitable Giving”, https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-gender-gap-in-charitable-giving-1454295689
  9. Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, “Measuring giving to women’s and girls’ causes” https://philanthropy.iupui.edu/institutes/womens-philanthropy-institute/research/wgi20.html
  10. Gender Smart, Gender & Climate Investment: A strategy for unlocking a sustainable future https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5af586a9a9e0287427653654/t/601ae6fe2f333d2a1fb598aa/1612375826979/Gender&ClimateInvestment-GenderSmartReport-Feb21.pdf

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