Capital invested with a gender lens has grown exponentially over the years, with the 2X Challenge alone mobilizing a total of USD$27.7 billion for women and girls since 2018 and the number of gender lens investing (GLI) funds growing 3.5X in the four years between 2017 and 2021 (Project Sage 4.0). And yet, the World Economic Forum estimates that it will take 131 years to close the gender gap and reach economic parity at our current rate.

This is why the 2023 GLI LATAM Forum calls us to move from theory to action. Organized by Pro Mujer, our long-time partner and leader for women’s economic empowerment, and IDB Invest, this event brings together leaders from the investor, entrepreneurial, academic, civil society, and corporate worlds to connect as an ecosystem and generate synergies to not only drive gender-focused investment in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), but ensure that capital invested makes a meaningful impact in the lives of women and girls.

Five members of the Deetken Impact team attended this year’s event in Medellin, Colombia: Magali Lamyin, Jose Lamyin, Betsy Gaborit, Rachel Murphy, and Carl Black. Each of us has had a pivotal role in driving Deetken Impact’s GLI strategy and in particular in supporting the growth and success of the Ilu Women’s Empowerment Fund, a $35MM pioneer GLI fund managed in partnership with Pro Mujer that is dedicated to women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship in LAC. As Deetken Impact celebrates 10 years of investing in women and girls in LAC, we also recognize the great challenges that lie ahead to reach equality for women and other marginalized groups around the world.

Events such as GLI are critical to bring together diverse perspectives, generate real conversations that help us identify solutions and potential collaborations. This year’s forum addressed many of those challenges head-on with panel discussions covering the intersection of gender equality with global phenomenons and markets such as migration, the care economy, climate change, fintech, health and wellbeing, STEM, and so much more. Notably, DFC’s Deputy CEO Nisha Biswal’s keynote was so inspiring, underscoring how “the 2X Challenge really helped us focus gender lens and inclusion into the totality of DFC’s mandate. We see gender equality as fundamental to reach our impact targets.” To date, DFC has invested $10B in gender focused investments since the 2X Challenge was launched in 2018 including the Ilu Women’s Empowerment Fund. 

A key theme centered on the breadth and diversity of investment vehicles. Today more than ever, prospective investors can find a range of products across the risk-return spectrum. In the Investor Event that we participated in alongside like-minded fund managers and investors, we learned about the latest innovations in gender bonds, the expansion of gender-focused products from regional and local commercial banks, the importance of blended instruments to attract private investors, as well as the important role family offices have and how to address some of the challenges they face. We firmly believe that today more than ever, there are GLI investment opportunities for every type of investor, and that it is our responsibility as fund managers to make our products accessible and high-impact.

This year’s event was particularly meaningful for our Ilu Women’s Empowerment Fund team as we had the great pleasure of bringing together leaders from six portfolio companies that are paving the way for gender equity in their organizations and communities of influence. Together, we led a session “Gender Business Strategies in Practice: Lessons from the Ilu Women’s Empowerment Fund” to give voice to those that are putting gender mainstreaming theory into practice. Our esteemed colleagues from Ilu Fund investee companies Avanza Solido, Acceso Financiero el Salvador, Fundación ESPOIR, Conserva, and Fundenuse led roundtable discussions sharing their challenges, successes, and lessons learned from the gender technical assistance engagements led by the Ilu Fund team. We were thrilled – and incredibly proud – to see that this session was oversubscribed and that there is such interest in going deeper in sharing candid and practical experiences related to implementing new strategies to advance gender business practices. 

Following that session, we brought Ilu Fund investees together in an intimate coffee break event to further facilitate connections, exchange, and learning between these gender leaders. We recognize that with gender equality being such a prevalent and urgent challenge of our time – in addition to a compelling business opportunity – we do not have time to reinvent the wheel. Our investees showed that there is not only appetite but also a commitment to sharing training material, policies, and other best practices to accelerate progress. The openness and alignment that we observed between our investees reaffirmed the importance of knowledge sharing, the value of in-person interactions, and the genuine commitment from our carefully curated portfolio.

As we settle back into our homes and offices, we are left with many tasks. The GLI Forum ignited ideas, reflections, and connections that require careful attention to ensure that each day we are one step closer to closing the gender gap. We are grateful to the Pro Mujer and IDB Invest team for creating this indispensable space, and strengthening the GLI ecosystem at large. We look forward to participating in future editions and for all of the partnerships, opportunities, and insights that they will bring.

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