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Request for Expression of Interest: Mainstreaming Gender Equality Scorecard©

Request for Expression of Interest: Mainstreaming Gender Equality Scorecard©

Mainstreaming Gender Equality Scorecard© Across Development Funds and Private Funds Industry

Request for Expression of Interest


Date of EOI: 17th November 2020

Closing Date: 13th January 2021, 5 PM EST


SEAF is pleased to announce this opportunity to invite leading academic and research institutions (“Academic Partner”) to respond to this Expression of Interest (“EOI”) to partner with SEAF and its collaborating partners to scale the pioneering SEAF Gender Equality Scorecard© (“GES©”). The goal is for the GES© through its implementation to form a leading global resource and database available for international gender lens research and practice, particularly where gender equality plays a role in improving business and investment performance, whether financial or social (the “Project”). In the interests of building a broader ecosystem of knowledgeable GES© supporters, EOI submissions from a consortia or partnership would be welcomed.

SEAF is collaborating closely with a range of partners on this Project that are at the forefront of Gender Lens Investing (“GLI”), are supporters of the Gender Equality Scorecard© and are available to share insights and offer support to the Academic Partner through this endeavor. These include UN ESCAP, Investing in Women (“IW”), Catalyst at Large, Criterion Institute, US International Development Finance Corporation (“DFC”), IFU, DEG, CDC, FinDev Canada, Women of the World Endowment (“WoWE”), Global Impact Investing Network (“GIIN”), Danish Family Planning Association (“DFPA”), Glenmede, Global Impact Initiative and People Management Association of the Philippines (“PMAP”). This collaboration culminated in the publication of a gender lens investment practitioner’s guide, the GES© Manual in July this year.

SEAF and its collaborating partners believe that opportunities exist to build value in small and medium enterprises by shaping gender equality and women’s empowerment in the companies’ leadership, business practices and workforce policies and compensation. The GES© was originally developed by SEAF as a tool to assess women’s economic empowerment, and gender equality and diversity within individual investment opportunities and portfolio companies for SEAF funds. The tool has since been widely circulated across the impact investment and development finance community and has been integrated, or is in the process of being integrated, into the investment processes of several organizations.

In its next phase of development, the tool will be promoted within the broader private equity and private funds manager universe as part of a vision to have gender equality and diversity criteria integrated into such managers’ investment processes as well as to allow investors in such funds a mechanism to engage with all such managers on gender equality and diversity issues within their organizations and portfolio companies.

This is an opportunity to form a unique partnership that will position the Academic Partner as a go-to institution for global data, research, and learning across dimensions of gender diversity and inclusion that drive better outcomes for women and girls. The GES© has already been rolled out across SEAF’s global platform and today holds a dataset of close to 4,000 gender data points over 40 companies. SEAF has collaborated with several development finance institutions, impact fund managers, and business support organizations in their own use of the tool in their investment process and member companies. SEAF envisions the data and insights derived from the Database (as defined herein) would serve as the stepping stone for more fund managers and organizations to institutionalize their gender equality as well as diversity and inclusion efforts, understanding that adoption of best practices would yield better business and social outcomes. It is envisioned within by working with the Academic Partner on Phase 1 of this project the database could be rapidly built out to over 20,000 data points over 300 privately owned SMEs over the emerging and frontier markets.

This partnership will proactively promote the GES© as a tool, leveraging the data derived from the database (the “Database”), for wider adoption within the impact investment and private funds industry.

SEAF and its collaborating partners will provide the following support to the Academic Partner as part of this Project partnership and are open to additional collaboration and support on a negotiated basis:

  • Providing access to existing data, relationships, and networks with investors and entrepreneurs, and practitioner insights to lead and shape an emerging field of study of gender lens investing. It is envisioned that such insight could allow the Academic Partner to integrate a practitioner insight into research and allow this insight to be considered in research linked to evidence-based policy formulation.
  • Assist the Academic Partner to build its research capacity in the field of gender lens investing which could lead to the Academic Partner achieving a wider adoption of its research and insights across a wider spectrum of practitioners and business leaders thereby deepening their understanding of the sustainability of gender lens investing.
  • Support Academic Partner’s partnerships or collaborations with other organizations (e.g. corporations or foundations) in building their knowledge as well as the implementation of their corporate responsibility initiatives and in particular those associated with gender equality and diversity & inclusion.
  • Leverage SEAF’s and collaborating partners’ network on a best-efforts basis to support Academic Partner’s seed funding and follow-on fund raising activities as well as research-related revenues.
  • Support Academic Partner in developing a curriculum in response to the growing interest in the gender lens investing field by providing access to subject matter experts and practitioners, leveraging on a library of case studies, as well as developing a pathway for students to potentially secure internships with organizations focused on gender lens investing, including SEAF and its collaborating partners.



Increasing employment and entrepreneurship opportunities and decent work for women in growing businesses are essential for inclusive growth. In a broader context, private companies, particularly small and medium enterprises (“SMEs”), play a critical role as contributors to employment and GDP within countries. In emerging markets, SMEs are responsible for 70% of jobs and more than 40% of GDP.[1] Challenges facing women are gender stereotypes, family responsibilities, lack of safe and accessible transportation, discriminatory property rights, inadequate access to financial services, and lack of affordable care for their children or family members. Women spend significantly more time on unpaid work in the home and with the family, resulting in chronic time poverty which hinders them from participating in the economy and becoming financially stable.[2] Commitment to gender inclusion and supportive policies for women employees will encourage women to be retained in the workplace and allow them to pursue career advancement, thereby increasing their representation in the workforce.

Research has shown that there is a positive and statistically significant correlation between higher levels of diversity in company leadership and a greater likelihood of outperforming the relevant industry peer groups on key financial performance measures.[3] Meanwhile, the Global Gender Gap Index, which assesses women’s economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment, estimated the size of the gender gap is 31.4% internationally, which requires much greater attention from all stakeholders.[4] As the relationship between diversity and business performance persists, SEAF’s conviction is that companies with strong internal gender equality across all dimensions are superior business performers and the GES© was developed to support to the development of research to test this thesis.

SEAF developed GES© in 2018 in recognition that significant value can be created through investing in gender equality-and diversity-focused companies. The GES© provides a practical and constructive framework for an investment firm or a company leadership team to facilitate conversations with entrepreneurs and employees on diversity areas needing to be addressed in a business. It also enables a capital provider to identify SME leadership teams who are committed to gender equality and wider diversity. SEAF has successfully rolled out the GES© across its global platform and has collaborated with a number of development finance institutions, impact fund managers, and organizations like the People Management Association of the Philippines, in their own use of the tool in their investment process and member companies. SEAF envisions the data and insights derived from the Database would serve as the stepping stone for more fund managers and organizations to institutionalize their gender equality as well as diversity and inclusion efforts, understanding that adoption of best practices would yield better business and social outcomes.

SEAF has been working with UN ESCAP on further developing the GES© since March 2020 through its regional program initiative titled ‘Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship: Creating a Gender-Responsive Entrepreneurial Ecosystem’ which is funded by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada.

Furthermore, development finance institutions that form part of the 2X Challenge have also been providing insights into the evolution of the GES© approach leading to the publication of the GES© Manual in July 2020. The Academic Partner will benefit from accessing the resources linked to further GES© collaboration being undertaken with these partners.


What is the SEAF Gender Equality Scorecard© and its purpose?

The EOI is an important element of building upon the GES© development to mainstream gender lens investing approaches more broadly. Ultimately, the GES© has been developed to be used by companies, organizations and/or funds as a due-diligence and gender lens investing toolkit, which applies consistent and comparable gender scoring of private companies and to measure progress as pro-active interventions are adopted within these companies in support of broader, deeper gender equality and diversity.

The GES© rating system is structured around six gender equality vectors consisting of: pay equity; women’s workforce participation; gender diverse leadership and governance; benefits and professional development; safe and healthy workplace environment, and women-powered value chains. These vectors each consist of four parameters which are scored on a five-point scale from 1 = ‘we need to talk’ to 5 = ‘role model’. A ‘vector’ is the gender equality issue being assessed while the term ‘parameter’ refers to the qualitative (policy areas) or quantitative indicators measuring specific gender impacts/data points related to the vector.

The GES© can be used for multiple purposes, including to:

(1) assess, score and select potential investment opportunities with regard to a company’s demonstrated commitment to gender equality.

(2) further score potential portfolio companies during due diligence to identify areas for improvement and determine gender improvement plans to be integrated into portfolio company’s short-term business plans and more medium-term value creation strategies for the benefit of women, investors and entrepreneurs;

(3) conduct ongoing assessments of portfolio companies’ gender equality to guide ongoing post-investment value creation work; and

(4) leverage the data set derived from the tool to support the analysis of the impact of improving gender equality on increasing investment returns for its investors. The leveraging of the data set will serve to validate and refine SEAF’s and other investment firm’s thesis around the importance of women’s economic empowerment and gender equality, as well as wider diversity, to company performance, financial or social.

GES© next phase led by Academic Partnership

In its next phase of development, the GES© will be promoted within the broader private equity and private funds manager universe as part of the vision to have gender equality and diversity criteria integrated into such managers’ investment processes as well as to provide investors in such funds with a mechanism to engage with such managers on gender equality and diversity issues within their organizations and portfolio companies. Within the impact investment community, both impact measurement and increasing focus on gender lens provide a strong impetus for increased recognition of the GES©. SEAF’s goal is to have 5,000 companies scored over the next 5 years. SEAF will continue to iterate the design and versatility to increase reach and rigor and to scale the application of the GES©.

To achieve the goal, SEAF is seeking to partner with an Academic Partner that shares this vision and has the demonstrable capability and track record to realize it. The Academic Partner should have experience in developing impact measurement focused tools, establishing a multi-country, multi-sector database as a global resource, and leading on research that develops and promotes insights on the correlation between gender equality and business performance, financial and social.

SEAF and the Academic Partner (collectively, the “Partnership”) will work together on long-term Project, initially 3-5 years based upon Academic Partner input, to build the global database of GES© data and promote the adoption of the GES© methodology into the investment and implementation processes of global private equity, impact investment managers and others who are interacting proactively with SMEs. This Database will, over time, be made available to all international researchers seeking to use the data to test hypotheses on the relationship between gender equality and broader diversity and inclusion efforts and a company’s business and/or social performance. As part of the EOI SEAF and its collaborating partners seek to understand any approaches the Academic Partner would have to Project phasing and the milestones, timing and funding associated with each Phase.

Project scope

SEAF is seeking to work with an Academic Partner to pioneer the research on gender equality and inclusion leveraging on the data derived from GES©. The Academic Partner should specifically address the following and provide a timeframe for each in the EOI:

  1. Design and scoring mechanism of GES© – The Academic Partner will evaluate the tool for academic rigor recognizing that the scoring will be carried out by professionals working across a wide spectrum of organizations and propose necessary modifications to the approach and any additional requirements to ensure effective data capture and integrity.
  2. Build a robust and sustainable Database – The Partnership will work together to define a set of performance indicators that will be tracked alongside the GES© parameters. In addition, screening criteria for qualified private companies will be established, ensuring the data are seen as relevant and credible to inform corporate and investment practice and to inform broad research topics. The Academic Partner will house the dataset in an independent platform managed under the data protocols required by research organizations to ensure it meets their rules for data integrity and compliance. This Database will over time be made available to all for research purposes at a certain point during the Project period. It is expected that models that would be explored by the Academic Partner are set out in the Submission and developed further in any RFP to provide confidence that the Database can be established and maintained for long-term financial sustainability.
  3. Develop a Diverse Database – The Partnership will work together to source qualified private companies from different sectors and geographies that feed into the Database while ensuring that data collected are validated for consistency in measurement.
  4. Promote GES© through Data, Research, Resulting Insights and Tools for Practitioners – The Academic Partner is expected to conduct research and issue working papers and publications in academic and practitioner journals leveraging the insights derived from the Database. The Partnership will work together to promote the adoption of the GES© methodology in investment and implementation processes through case studies, working papers for practitioners, practitioner journal publications, peer-reviewed academic journal article(s) and books.



It is anticipated that access to this Database will be provided to any academic researchers or data specialists during the Project period to test hypotheses around the role of gender in company development and business performance as well as broader research into the role of gender equality and women economic empowerment in economic development. SEAF would be open to the Academic Partner proposing a reasonable period of exclusivity to their institution to support their leadership in publishing the first peer-reviewed academic paper(s) based upon the Database. However, following this exclusivity period, it is intended the Database will be open to all academic and other research institutions as a public good. It is expected that SEAF and other organizations submitting data as a requirement of sharing their underlying GES© data that these data sets will be anonymized at the portfolio company and potentially the firm level.

Joint Contribution

SEAF will bring GES© related IP, including reputation and market recognition of GES© as a leading tool. Collectively, SEAF and its collaborating partners will contribute existing data, relationships, and networks with investors, and practitioner insights. Through various GES© partnerships, SEAF will bring to the Partnership the access to a body of knowledge in gender lens investing, including insights from prominent development finance institutions (DFC, IFU, DEG, CDC, and FinDev Canada), innovative institutional investors (WoWE), leading development agencies (UN ESCAP and Australian Government through IW), think tanks and gender consultants (Catalyst at Large and Criterion Institute) as well as notable industry associations (the GIIN, DFPA, and PMAP).

The Academic Partner (including where applicable its consortia or partnership members) is expected to demonstrate a strong track record at the institutional level and of nominated individuals, showing its capacity for academic rigor and multi-generational capacity given the long-term nature of this Project. The Academic Partner should propose a mechanism concept to fund the costs associated with building and maintaining of the Database to ensure its long-term sustainability as a public good. It may consider a subscription-based model or charge for access to data in line with established protocols provided SEAF will have the ongoing right to access and use data. SEAF and its collaborating partners would be highly interested in hearing other innovative concepts to managing the Data sustainability considerations.

The Academic Partner will need to consider how the GES© foundation can be used to build global standards in the gender equality and impact measurement field.


EOI submissions from a consortia/partnership of academic institutions would be welcomed in circumstances where the roles of the various partners are outlined alongside their experience in meeting the following qualifications. In such circumstances, the EOI should clearly state who is championing the project within the consortia/partnership or capable of doing so.

The EOI will be reviewed based upon the following qualification criteria:

  • Preference will be given to the institution (or consortia) that have demonstrated capability in the following areas:
  • Having been part of a program to build a global database in a financially sustainable structure; or
  • Proven ability to contribute or leverage additional capital; or
  • Demonstrated track record in understanding the impact of gender equality and diversity on a business
  • Capacity to operate in English and at least one other language (e.g. Spanish, French, Mandarin).
  • Preference will be given to consortia of qualified institutions, especially consortia composed of institutions with complementary research and data collection skillsets and
  • The interested institution must be knowledgeable about issues of gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.
  • The interested institution should have experience working or conducting research in a number of the relevant sectors and regions in which the SEAF and its collaborating partners operate, including Asia- Pacific, Latin America, or Africa.
  • Interested institutions preferably are knowledgeable of the impact investing sector as a whole and understand the growing trend of gender lens
  • The interested institution may be a staffed research institution or group of individual researchers that will undertake the project as a collaborative effort. However, at least one researcher must be affiliated with an institution that will host this Project and is able to provide the management infrastructure required to house and maintain the global Database.
  • EOIs submitted by individual consultants are not eligible, but they can work in association with research institutions and
  • The interested institution should have experience managing multi-country research studies of a similar size, scope, duration, and level of Experience in handling inter-generational and/or longitudinal studies should be noted.


Submission requirements

Expressions of Interest should be submitted in English. Responses should use a minimum of 11 pt. font (Calibri) size and limit responses to ten (10) pages, excluding attachments. Please note that the total size of all attachments should be less than 10 MB.

Interested institutions should submit an expression of interest in response to the requested information no later than 13th January 2021 at 5 PM EST. Responses and questions/clarifications on the Project should be submitted via email to copying and no later than the date showed above, with the subject line: “Response to EOI-GES©”. Please see Appendix A for response requirements.

Consortia of qualified institutions and organizations, especially consortia composed of proposed partners with complementary research and data collection skillsets and experience, are encouraged to apply.

Following this invitation for Expression of Interest, a shortlist of qualified potential Academic Partners will be invited to discuss their EOI with SEAF and its collaborating partners to better understand their EOI submissions. Based upon these discussions SEAF and its collaborating partners may invite some or all of the shortlisted Academic Partners to prepare a more detailed proposal.

Only those institutions or consortia which have been shortlisted will receive a notification. No feedback will be provided to organizations which have not been shortlisted. SEAF and its collaborating partners reserve the right both to not make a selection and to work directly with one or more of the Academic Partners who submit an EOI.


Appendix A: Response requirements


  1. A brief synopsis of your team’s and organization’s capabilities and activities that highlight your capacity and expertise to manage a global Database and research published leveraging the data set derived from such a Database.
  2. Responses to the following questions that highlight your institution’s interest, expertise and knowledge, and creativity in undertaking this type of work. Note that SEAF is currently planning to implement the objectives in phases. SEAF and its collaborating partners would consider Phase 1 will tentatively run 12-18 months and seeks views of the interested institutions on this Project phasing and the milestones, timing and funding associated with Phases proposed. Given this Project phasing and your organizational capacity, please provide an overview of what reasonable expectations are for the following.
    • What should be the size of the dataset as well as geography and sector concentration required to make the results statistically viable?
    • The Database should accept which stages or income level of companies?
    • The number of private companies that are currently in your network that could be ready for GES© application and proposed approach to implement GES© with such companies.
    • Potential challenges, pitfalls, elements that could delay establishing the Database.
    • Approach to maintain and a Database that could be financially sustainable beyond the initial funding period.
    • Example(s) on how you would design the research that informs broader private equity and private funds manager universe to have gender equality and diversity criteria integrated into such managers’ investment processes and portfolio companies. Please detail the research methodologies to be applied, and the data required for this example, preferable for an 18-month timeframe.
    • What are other ways in which the Database could encourage private companies, private funds managers and investors to adopt the GES© methodology and support on-going research in this field?
  1. A summary of your plan to raise funding for contribution and Database cost.
  2. Attachment of CV(s) of any individuals proposed in the staffing plan to conduct this project.
  3. Attachment of any relevant information indicating that interested institutions are qualified to perform the project (brochures, description of similar assignments, experience in similar conditions, availability of appropriate skills among staff, etc. for firms; cover letter for individuals).


[1] World Bank Group, World Bank SME Finance

[2] UN Women, “COVID-19 And The Care Economy: Immediate Action And Structural Transformation For A Gender-Responsive Recovery”

[3] McKinsey & Company, “Delivering Through Diversity

[4] World Economic Forum, “Global Gender Gap Report 2020