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SEAF’s Bob Webster on Measuring the Impact of Gender Equality at the 2019 Women Deliver Conference

SEAF’s Bob Webster on Measuring the Impact of Gender Equality at the 2019 Women Deliver Conference

Bob Webster, Managing Director for SEAF, recently spoke on a panel at Women Deliver, entitled “Finding Tools Fit for Purpose: Measuring the Impact of Gender Equality on Investments, Workplaces, and Value-Chains.”

The Women Deliver Conference is consistently the world’s largest conference on gender equality and the health, rights, and well-being of girls and women. The 2019 iteration in Vancouver focused on power and how it can drive -or hinder- progress and change. The conference examined power operating at three levels: the individual’s power, structural power, and the power of movements.

The four-day long conference received 8000+ attendees. Image by Women Deliver.

In this panel, investors, entrepreneurs, and corporations considered how an explicit approach to gender equality can add value and how tools and resources can be used to help guide organizational change and optimize investment decisions. Joining Bob on the panel were Vasudevan (LabourNet), Yen Do (Patamar Capital), Katja Freiwald (Unilever), and Yasmina Zaidman (Acumen).

Thousands packed the hall for the #WD2019 closing plenary. Image by Dayna Kerecman Myers.

Gender equality is considered smart economics, but not all organizations understand or value a distinct gender perspective in their operations. In this interactive session, panelists discussed the barriers organizations face when considering gender-sensitive approaches and then examined practical tools and resources to help guide organizational change and optimize investment decisions with a gender lens.

Bob highlighted the development and piloting of SEAF’s Gender Equality Scorecard© implemented across our Southeast Asian portfolio and beyond. The SEAF Gender Equality Scorecard© (“GES”) is a proprietary tool SEAF uses to assess women’s economic empowerment and gender equality within individual investment opportunities and portfolio companies for select SEAF funds. This rating system is structured around six gender equality vectors, including pay equity, workforce participation, leadership and governance, benefits and professional development, workplace environment, and women-powered value chains.


Here’s a short glimpse into the Q&A between Bob, the moderator, Yasmina Zaidman, and audience participants.

Q:  What motivated SEAF to develop its Gender Equality Scorecard©?

GES© provides an overall rating score for a scored company on its level of women’s economic empowerment and gender equality within the business. Image by SEAF.

A:  The GES© was developed as part of SEAF’s women’s economic empowerment investing strategy to move beyond merely investing in women-led and/or owned businesses to other investment categories that can benefit women and to promote gender equality within our portfolio companies.  Simply put, if we want to promote gender equality in this way, we needed a tool to assess and measure progress gender equality over time as a result of our post-investment support. And, while there are gender equality tools in the marketplace, there really weren’t such at the time that met our needs for practicality and measurability.  The GES© gives us these two dimensions. I should note that other tools, such as MEDA’s GEM framework, were very helpful in developing the GES©.

Q:  What successes and challenges have you had so far in implementing the GES©?

A: We have been very pleased with the voluntary buy-in from entrepreneurs, both female and male, as well as the positive response from the global SEAF team as we have moved to implement the GES© beyond our Southeast Asia Women’s Opportunity Fund to other funds.  Of course, we have had some surprises or challenges, including finding, in some cases, low scores on pay equity regardless of whether or not a company is women-led and/or owned. On pay equity, we have also learned that SEAF has more to learn on how to help companies move towards internal pay equity, which is a complex challenge with no simple or quick fix.  We’d love to learn how others have done this!

Q:  Do you think the GES© can accommodate, or be modified, for different sectors?

A:  Great question, and the answer is yes!  I think we were wise enough to realize that different sectors, and perhaps even different countries and cultures, will probably require modifying or adapting the GES© to some degree.  However, we are not yet wise enough to know how to do that, but are looking to learn from our implementation, as well as learning from others, on this very challenge.

At the end of the panel discussion, the following “Call to Action for Investors” was made collectively by the panelists:

  1. Invest in female leaders– Insist on more women being a part of executive teams
  2. Address gender biases– Examine screening, due diligence, and the investment decision process
  3. Promote workplace gender equality– Promoting gender equality within companies is good for women, entrepreneurs and investors, as the emerging data shows gender equality leads to better business performance
  4. Demand gender inclusive strategies– Capital providers have the power to demand change and ask investors to begin investing in women
  5. Don’t wait– Just begin, even experiment and you eventually find yourself on a clear path to serve women and girls through gender lens investing

Ultimately, the empowerment of girls and women benefits everyone; it can transform lives, change the world and power real, sustainable progress. Learn more about SEAFs commitment to Women’s Economic Empowerment and Equality.  


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