Make These Small Investments in Women (And Have a Big Impact)

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Forget “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” Girls “run the world,” according to Beyoncé—and she’s right. College graduation rates for women now lead those of men. Women start new businesses at twice the rate of men. And women have regained all of the jobs we lost during the recession.

However, gaps persist—the earnings ratio for women to men was 80 percent in 2016, according to a report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW).

Since “#TheFutureIsFemale,” it’s up to us to close those gaps. Here are strategies for investing in women that could have a big impact.

Ask Who’s Managing Your Money

“The more women manage funds, the more funds get channeled into issues women care about,” says Nathalie Molina Niño, CEO of Brava Investments. “When someone brings on one female fund manager, we’re talking about potentially billions of dollars that get moved in a different direction.” She says that questions like “How many of your fund managers are women?” used to be rare in the industry, but now that more and more people are asking, large institutions are getting nervous—mostly because the answer is often “none” or “few.”

So if you’re an investor of any sort—and that includes 401(k)s and IRAs—try sending an email to your plan administrators. Say something like, “I’d like to know where my money is going. Can you give me the demographics of your fund managers?

What percentage of them are women?” You and your colleagues can even reach out to higher-ups at the company (you can find their names and, often, the company’s email format online). Once you get an answer, consider moving your money towards women-led funds on your current platform or another one.

Invest in Companies With Women Leaders

Women hold only 4.2 percent of CEO positions in America’s 500 largest companies, according to a study from the FORTUNE Knowledge Group.

And in the corresponding survey, although 70 percent of respondents said their organization "pursues an explicit women’s talent strategy," only about half of them suggested their company put those policies into action.

That’s why it’s important for women to invest in companies that support other women. One example? Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund (PXWEX). It’s a mutual fund with Sallie Krawcheck, the leader of women’s digital financial advisor Ellevest, serving as chair. Here’s the scoop: It rates companies based on how well they advance gender diversity—like how many women serve on the board or as executive managers—and puts your money towards the ones that come out on top. It’s based on global research that shows having more women at the helm can increase return and lower costs, says Blayney. As for the results? The fund outperformed the MSCI World Index for the three-year period ending September 30, 2017. 

Look Into Mentorship

“We talk about time, treasure and talent, and all of those can be put towards advancing women and girls,” says Eleanor Blayney, special advisor on gender diversity for the CFP Board Center for Financial Planning. Great leaders reach back to help those following them, and one way to do this is becoming a mentor.

If you're interested, ask colleagues if they personally know any young professionals entering your industry, invest in a woman starting her career at your company or join a women’s mentorship network (like Million Women Mentors for STEM careers).

Donate to Women Entrepreneurs

Kiva Microfunds is a nonprofit organization and microloan tool allowing people to lend money to others in need around the world, starting at $25. It focuses on low-income entrepreneurs and students in over 80 countries, making it easy to seek out women and invest in their futures. The organization has a 97 percent loan repayment rate and a four-star rating from Charity Navigator. A higher-cost option is SheEO, a company that takes donations in the amount of $1,100 to support early women entrepreneurs and grow their businesses.

Contributors, called “activators,” can vote regularly on which women-led ventures the nonprofit fund will support.  

Support Financial Literacy for Girls 

“There are special reasons why women have got to take financial control through education and empowerment,” says Blayney. (One big reason: Women tend to lend longer than men, so they’ll need more money over their lifetimes.) However, about 35 percent of men around the world are financially literate, compared to 30 percent of women, according to a global financial literacy survey by The Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services. Furthering the issue, just 17 states require high school students to take a personal finance course—and that number hasn’t changed since 2014, according to the Council for Economic Education.

The good news: Organizations like Rock The Street, Wall Street (a 501(c)(3) nonprofit) aim to fill in the gaps. It’s a year-long financial literacy program that educates high school girls about careers in finance, and the program includes education about saving, investing, capital markets and financial preparedness for college. Nonprofits like this tend to accept one-time or recurring donations of any size.