Our Commitment to Promoting Gender Equity in our Investment Approach and Portfolio
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are core to the mission of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gender equity is an important element of this effort that also includes considerations of ethnicity, sexual identity and orientation, religion, disability, educational background, and experiences, among others. The Gates Foundation Strategic Investment Fund is committed to promoting gender equity and women’s representation through its investment activities in support of the foundation’s mission. Our team has adopted a three-pronged approach to prioritizing gender equity as an investor:
- Investment evaluation: When evaluating new charitable investment opportunities, we ask prospective investee companies to provide metrics around representation of women across the workforce, senior management, the Board, and the company’s customer/ end-user base. These metrics help us identify ways in which we can best work together to support advancements in gender equity within their organizations.
- Supporting Board diversity: Our investment agreements contain a “Commitment to Gender Diversity.” This clause confirms the company’s commitment to advance gender diversity across its Board, senior management team, workforce (including in scientific, technical, and technological roles), and – when applicable – customer or end-user base. Furthermore, in all investments where the foundation has a right to nominate a Director to a company’s Board, we consider gender diversity when selecting a new Board nominee and ensure that qualified women are included in the candidate pool. Finally, in most equity investments, the foundation includes a requirement in the investment agreements that the company’s Board includes at least one qualified woman Director within a specified time period following closing.
- Ongoing evaluation and support: On an interim and annual basis, our team seeks refreshed information from our portfolio companies on gender equity efforts and metrics (through Board meetings or periodic management discussions) in order to understand a company’s status, progress, and any areas where we can provide support. Our intention is to explicitly prioritize gender equity and to fulfil that intent with measurable actions. Additionally, to help our portfolio companies implement tangible efforts, we collaborated with the Gender Equality & DEI team, and the Global Center for Gender Equality at Stanford University to develop gender equity guidance resource materials. We share these materials (available below) with all of our investees to offer practical guidance regarding gender equity strategies, policies, metrics & monitoring tactics, leadership engagement, talent management & related resources, and exemplar case studies.
Gender equity guidance resource materials:
- A Smart Strategy: Why GENDER EQUITY strengthens companies from their earliest stages, and how you can make sure you’re getting it right
- Promoting Gender Equity in Companies: A Closer Look – A RESOURCE GUIDE for early and growth stage companies
Case studies from our portfolio:
Several of our portfolio companies have taken steps to build diverse work environments and have pivotal lessons to share from their journeys. We highlight below the strong strides in DEI and lessons learned from Avanti Finance and Charter School Growth Fund.