Standing on the Shoulders of Phenomenal Women

Maya Angelou2We live in phenomenal times, in a world where women have achieved phenomenal success in business, government, and personal endeavors. This week Calvert Foundation launched our new Women INvesting in Women INitiative (WIN-WIN), which will help empower women around the world. In connection with the launch, we asked people to tell us stories about women who have inspired them. I have been so personally touched by these stories, and I’m reminded of the many phenomenal women on whose shoulders I stand. WIN-WIN is an opportunity to remember and celebrate women who have been relentless advocates for social and economic justice. I am inspired by countless women who were pioneers of impact investing before the term was ever created.

These women include Rebecca Adamson, to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for her role as one of the original founders of Calvert Foundation. Rebecca continues to inspire all of us at Calvert Foundation as we carry on her legacy.

Another phenomenal woman on whose shoulders I stand is Mary Houghton. Mary is a long-time board member of Calvert Foundation, co-founded ShoreBank, and had a pivotal role in expanding economic opportunity for thousands of families in Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit. ShoreBank’s pioneering mission influenced so many organizations who continue to provide financial opportunity in low-income communities today.

And then there is Bonnie Wright, co-founder of the Center for Community Self-Help, the predecessor organization to Self-Help Credit Union, now the largest CDFI in the nation and an early partner of Calvert Foundation. What started as Bonnie’s business plan during her years at Yale has now grown into an institution that has provided almost $6 billion in financing to nearly 70,000 families, individuals, and organizations with a focus on traditionally underserved populations.

And, of course, I am also inspired by my mother, whose determination, tenacity, and perseverance continue to give me faith in what is possible.

Without women like Rebecca, Mary, Bonnie, and my mother, an initiative like WIN-WIN would not and could not exist. The goal of WIN-WIN is to place capital in the hands of women, especially low-income women, who don’t have access to loans through traditional means. That capital will come from investments by other women – and from all those who care about women. According to the Harvard Business Review, women control $20 trillion in spending globally. We want some of that money to be invested in women – both here in the United States and internationally.

When I say investing in women, I mean it in the truest sense. WIN-WIN investors will earn a financial return on their investments and receive their principal back at maturity. And their investments will help empower not just women, but the communities in which they live. When you invest in a woman, you invest in her family, her community, and her world. The data is clear. When 10% more women go to school, the GDP rises by 3%. When women own the same amount of land as men, the output is 10% greater. Investing in women is smart economics (see sources).

At Calvert Foundation, we know that at some point in time there was a phenomenal woman who invested in each of us: a teacher who recognized your potential, a grandmother who offered you guidance, a mentor who helped you in your career. Now, you have a chance to pay it forward by investing in a woman so that she can send her children to school, start a business, and improve the quality of her life.

This initiative is a call for every investor to be an impact investor, a call for all of us to align our investments with our values, a call for women – and those who care about them – to invest in other women. It’s a WIN-WIN.