Samantha Downes  

Gender Lens Investing by Joseph Quinlan and Jackie VanderBrug

Samantha Downes

Samantha Downes

I have to declare a particular interest in reviewing this book, which claims to be the first to explore the advantages of "integrating gender into investment analysis". I am female.

As someone whose upbringing and education was heavily influenced by the second wave of feminism, my first instinct was to find its very concept patronising. More ardent second-wave feminists may say the fact the book is co-authored by a man lowers its credibility.

Putting my feminist preconceptions aside, the book is a useful history of the contribution made by women to modern economies.

Both authors, even if one is male, have a banking background, which lends some credence to their musings. A more academic tome might not have hit the spot. For the most part, the book is  a potted history of the more ‘feminine’ – although they never use this word – aspects of the world economy.

They argue that an awareness of the inherent bias towards what are considered more male investment behaviours is needed in order to take global economies forward; hence the idea of investing through a gender lens.

The book’s premise is that adopting a gender lens approach is essential for successful investing, whatever that may be. It suggests that the more women participate in an economy, the more successful that economy is. Ergo Western economies are more successful because of the inclusion of women in the decision-making process. 

That progress is measured by the amount of money women earn or their contribution in financial terms. 

With no attempt to measure the economic benefit of mothers who choose to stay at home, bring up a child and help create a healthy, useful adult, this is still a role that remains woefully understated. In this respect, the book does not add to the debate around gender and investing.

There are no particularly ground breaking facts – we learn that women earn more than they did 100 years ago and there are more managers and entrepreneurs.

Segregating or making a point of gender differences is a useful process, but the fact it has taken until the second decade of the 21st century for a book to be published on the subject shows just how much further we have to go.

Gender lens investing is never completely defined in the book but it can be taken that it is about sustainable strategies rather than a quick profit. It is ultimately about being kinder, something which – if I were a male of the species – might find not only patronising but rather 20th century. Ideas such as equal pay, allowing flexible working, the ability to network and providing work-friendly childcare are not gender issues – they are humankind issues. Lumping them as belonging to a specific gender does not do any of us any favours.

Published by Wiley

Samantha Downes is assistant editor of Financial Adviser