Using Our Capital for the World We Want

April 16, 2020

This podcast was recorded live from the Wisdom Room Stage at the #SheEOGlobalSummit hosted in Toronto, March 9 and 10, 2020.

We all have the power to generate change with our capital – whether it’s a few dollars to spend or thousands to invest. Moderated by Komal Minhas, this session featured a diverse panel of powerful voices including Suzanne Biegel, founder of Catalyst at Large, and S. Mona Sinha, the board chair at Women Moving Millions, to inspire you to use your money to create the world you want. 

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TRANSCRIPT

Jessy Wang:

Welcome to sheeo.world. A podcast about redesigning the world. This is a special episode recorded live at the first ever SheEO Global Summit hosted in Toronto, Canada on March 9th and 10th, 2020. The SheEO Global Summit was a two-day conference that gathered hundreds of people in support of the theme Reorganized.world. What does this mean? Collectively, we have everything we need to make positive change. We took action together at Global Summit and continued working on the world’s to-do list in a variety of sessions.

Jessy Wang:

Over the two-day conference, guests participated in keynote presentations, wisdom sessions, and get-to-action workshops all centered around what we can do to reorganize our resources, systems, and structures to create a better world with SheEO ventures and activators leading the way. This session is called using our capital for the world we want and features a diverse panel of powerful voices. This session was also supported by Global Summit partner RBC.

Jessy Wang:

Recorded live on the Wisdom Room stage, this panel discussion was moderated by Komal Minhas, a curator of powerful experiences and conversations and a SheEO activator. She is a host, interviewer, investor, and champion of women around the world. In 2016, Komal produced the documentary film Dream Girl about female entrepreneurs that landed her on Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul 100 list.

Jessy Wang:

Our panelists include Suzanne Biegel founder of Catalyst at Large. Suzanne has spent the past decade building the global gender lens and impact investing fields. Now, she’s leading the launch of SheEO UK. S. Mona Sinha, the board chair at Women Moving Millions. She’s an advocate for expanding the rights of women and girls and has parlayed a career in finance, marketing, and restructuring to work at the intersection of social justice and women’s leadership. Now, please enjoy this dynamic conversation and wisdom session using our capital for the world we want.

Speaker 2:

Welcome your moderator, Komal Minhas to the stage, please.

Komal Minhas:

Welcome, everybody, to the Finance World Track sponsored by RBC this current session. I’m so excited for this conversation we are about to have. When I think of using capital for the world that I want, so many different things come to mind. Gender equality, intersectional investing, so many different ethos that we’ve been diving into here together at SheEO Summit.

Komal Minhas:

The two women who are going to be joining me on stage today, very much embody this ethos around intersectional investing and around really focusing on what is it that we want to see in the world, and how do we invest now to make that future a reality. I guess I should introduce myself. My name is Komal Minhas. I am the host of Lessons Learned, a talk show and podcast that focuses on stories of resilience and rising in order to better connect humanity. It’s my favorite thing to have conversations, to include everybody in that dialogue and to make sure that we make things like finance and money digestible and able to process as we know this can be a topic area that triggers a lot for a lot of different people, and we’re going to be talking about those things in this dialogue.

Komal Minhas:

So, first I would love to introduce Suzanne Biegel. She’s the founder of Catalyst at Large. She spent the last decade building the global gender lens and impact investing fields. She’s now leading the launch of SheEO UK. Next up, Mona Sinha. She’s the board chair at Women Moving Millions. She’s an advocate for expanding the rights of women and girls. She has parlayed a career in finance, marketing, and restructuring to work at the intersection of social justice and women’s leadership. Unfortunately, today Lindsay Patrick from RBC Capital is unable to join us, but please welcome me, well, please help me in welcoming Suzanne and Mona to the stage.

Komal Minhas:

I feel like dancing like Ellen. She does the slow sit. Welcome. We had such a nice chat in the lounge prior to getting up here and a big part of what we want to do in this conversation is make it digestible and palatable for everybody. So, to start Suzanne suggested that we find out who’s in the room. Who here is a venture or a founder? Hands up.

Komal Minhas:

I see you. Who here is from the corporate world, finance, banks? Let’s throw our hands up. Who here is an investor? Hands up. Who here is a student? I’ve met a lot of students today. Wonderful. Thank you, everyone, for being here. Another way that I want to launch this conversation when we’re talking about the world we want to live in, why don’t we find out what the audience wants to hear about. What is it about the future of investing where we’re taking things through organizations like SheEO, what do you guys want us to dive into today? I’m going to take like three from the audience. Yes.

Amanda:

[inaudible 00:05:38]

Komal Minhas:

There’s a mic coming just one second. There we go. Thank you.

Amanda:

Thank you. Hi. My name is Amanda. I’m a new full-time female entrepreneur and I work with a ton of young new female entrepreneurs. So, just like your best most practical helpful advice for young female entrepreneurs that are just starting out.

Komal Minhas:

Okay. We’ll add that to the list.

Speaker 5:

What are banks doing to help women in relation to how they work in the past where still a lot of the top positions are men and women are still encountering a different amount of respect?

Komal Minhas:

Absolutely. Thank you. One more. We’ve got one just over here.

Speaker 6:

The role of research and specifically evidence-based research in redirecting this capital to where we want.

Komal Minhas:

Amazing. These three topics, I’m so grateful you guys brought them up because they are so embedded in the things that I also want to pick your brains about. Let’s dive in. I always love to start conversations with just an opportunity to learn more about the history of each of you. Mona, I did a deep dive into your story. But because you can’t be what you can’t see, and seeing another brown woman at the helm of Women Moving Millions meant so much to me when I saw the leadership change happen a few years ago.

Komal Minhas:

You candidly talk about how in the household that you were brought up in, you were the youngest of three daughters, and that money wasn’t necessarily something you talked about often. How did you claim that power when it came to your wealth? You went into the financial sector, you were very successful before diving into philanthropy, how did you reclaim that money mindset or claim it in the first place for you to dive into this sector in a meaningful way?

S. Mona Sinha:

Interesting question. How many of us are told growing up, “Let’s not talk about money?” Right? Virtually everybody in this room. It was no different for me. When I left, I grew up in Calcutta as the youngest of three girls as Komal mentioned, and so when I left home to go to college, I had a big scholarship. In some ways, I had to talk about money because it depended on how I was going to make my way around college and live life.

S. Mona Sinha:

So, after that is when I decided to go to Wall Street because I wanted to make money, pay back those loans, and show people that women could be successful on Wall Street, and of the class of a hundred that were hired, I was one of five women. We’re still very much a minority. But to answer your question, I think you have to step into a place that’s uncomfortable because like you said, you can’t be what you can’t see.

S. Mona Sinha:

The prevalent notion at the time was that all philanthropists are largely white women. Well, that’s just simply not true. All philanthropists make $10 million gifts. That’s not true either. This is when I sort of stepped up, and said, “I have to claim this.” Because there’s a whole universe of people out there that are, A, not being able to talk about it, B, not being recognized for it, and not feeling supported in what they’re doing, and that’s the thing, we create community and that sort of gave me the strength to step in.

S. Mona Sinha:

I won’t say that it was completely comfortable. There were times when I had some teeth gritting moments, but I think you just have to do it. It’s been wonderful to hear the response back because I think people now see that funders and entrepreneurs and investors are a diverse population as is our world.

Komal Minhas:

What is it like now when you talk to your family about money? Is that something you guys discuss?

S. Mona Sinha:

My kids love it. Because now they talk about inflation and how their pocket money has to go up and those stuff but we do talk about it. I have a son and I have two daughters and we do talk about money. They all have portfolios that they make mistakes with, and just this whole week with the market being what it is, we’ve been exchanging a lot of texts because the boys on the family, the husband and the son have been saying, “Oh my god. The market is tanking.”

S. Mona Sinha:

We’re like, “Great. Let’s invest in more.” It’s been an interesting conversation. I think the girls in the family are definitely the bigger risk takers.

Komal Minhas:

Something that I read around resilience and building resilience in our children is that competence breeds confidence. I think when we do talk about money in the world that we want to live in, having that competence as women is so important, and I know for you, Suzanne, there was a critical moment in your career where the opportunities opened up for you in terms of where you could put your money, how you could invest. That was what you share as one of your greatest achievements in life, creating your business IEC with your co-founder. You had a successful exit from that company. How did that change your life?

Suzanne Biegel:

Well, first of all, it was an extraordinary opportunity to build a business from seven women in a small room to several hundred people with a global client base, and we never set out to make a lot of money. We set out to solve problems that we saw in the world, which was how are people going to access learning. We were pioneers in e-learning. We wanted to be creating the best products in the world. We wanted to have it be the best place that ever anyone could ever work. We wanted it to create the best experience for our customers and our clients and our people.

Suzanne Biegel:

We made a lot of money by doing that. We didn’t start out by saying, “We want to make a lot of money so what will we do?” That’s a piece of advice for young entrepreneurs in the room. I would say, I would never do anything differently. When we sold the company, it was an incredible opportunity to say, “Now, I have a different level of wealth. If I’m going to deploy that wealth, I’m going to be conscious about doing it.”

Suzanne Biegel:

I’m an environmentalist. I’m obsessed about water and access to clean air, clean soil, clean land, and I really thought if I’ve got this capital, I want to put my money into things that matter to me. Health, well-being, and women, and part of this, okay, having been women entrepreneurs, I was in a crowd of amazing women entrepreneurs who were innovators, who were extraordinary leaders, and I watched them having such a hard time accessing capital.

Suzanne Biegel:

I said, “If I’ve got capital this is definitely a place where I’m going to both be able to pay it forward but also use my wealth to create other wealth and to back really incredible innovators doing things that maybe somebody else hasn’t spotted.” It’s been right from the very beginning. I have to say I was working with a very big bank who was managing my money, and when I said to them this is how I want to deploy this capital. I got the classic answer, “Oh, you should invest the way we tell you to, to make as much money as you possibly can, and then go do a lot of philanthropy.”

Suzanne Biegel:

I think this is not a surprising thing even today. This is 20 years ago. I looked at them and I said, “Yeah. No. It’s actually my money. It’s not your money. It’s my money.” I had fallen in with a crowd of amazing social entrepreneurs that the founders of Patagonia, and Ben and Jerry’s, and The Body Shop, and Seventh Generation and we were all talking about the fact that if we didn’t invest in the next generation of businesses like ours, who was going to do that? It was so obvious to me that this is what I needed to do.

Komal Minhas:

Yes. I’m so glad you did. Just to speak more directly to advice for entrepreneurs. When you heard that, what comes to mind? What do you want to impart to the entrepreneurs in the room today?

Suzanne Biegel:

Well, first of all, you’re doing something really brave, and sometimes you don’t feel brave, you just feel like, “Well, this is what I need to do.” But to realize that this is a marathon and not a sprint. I’m married to an ultra-marathoner. I use a lot of marathon analogies. That building, thinking about the people in your world, your team, your advisors, your customers, and anybody who’s in your circle, that’s like the most important thing because you can create a piece of tech, you can create a new product, you can do all these other things, if you think about relationships, relationships will carry you and you build good relationships with integrity that will carry you through the ups and downs, which are invariably going to come.

Suzanne Biegel:

We did not have a rise in our business that looked like this. We had a rise that looked like this. So, every single time, we got in trouble, we made mistakes, we lost big clients, it was because we had such solid relationships with people that got us through. That’s to me the number one thing. Then, coming back to focusing, the ability to focus for wherever you are, but then also not being about how much money can I make, even if somebody comes and whispers in your ear, “Well, if I gave you 10 times as much money, could you grow 10 times as fast?”

Suzanne Biegel:

It’s really, the more you focus on what are we trying to achieve in the world, and let the noise, sometimes there will be outside noise that will be directing you this way and that, staying true. When we were selling the company, we had someone say to us that exact thing, “If we gave you 10 times as much money, could you grow 10 times as fast?” I did look at the guy and say, “Nine women can’t make a baby in one month.”

Komal Minhas:

I’m going to lock that away. That’s such a good one. Would you like to add, Mona?

S. Mona Sinha:

Well, I just add that just picking up on what Suzanne said about relationships that’s really important. I think trusting, having a group of trusted relationships and people that you can trust to ask for help is also very important. As women, we don’t tend to ask for help. We’re not out there on the golf course playing golf with our buddies and saying, “Oh, by the way, I need another $5 million,” or whatever it is and it happens. But just learn to ask for help and you’d be surprised at who shows up.

S. Mona Sinha:

I think SheEO is such a great example of that because you look at all the women in the room who connect and who offer advice, and don’t forget that you have that resource.

Komal Minhas:

Mona, your career is so inspiring to me because I saw how you or read about how you came up in traditional business Wall Street, and when we were talking outside you said, you set this threshold for yourself or it was like when I hit this milestone in terms of wealth or what I’ve created for myself, that’s enough and I’m going to shift into impact after that point. You did just that.

Komal Minhas:

I’m invested in a fund called The Helm in New York City, and Lindsey Taylor, what the founder often says, “Women are so often looked to invest their money for no return.” Her focus has been to help women realize, “You can have a return on your investments, making money is okay and we should be encouraged to do that.” How do you balance those two parts of yourself, this philanthropy and impact investing in the philanthropic way, and then your returns based investing? What’s your ethos to bring those two together?

S. Mona Sinha:

You have to do both right because you don’t have a return, how can you be philanthropic? The greater your return, the more you can give away. You can’t live just on one side of a coin, right? You have to be involved in your investment decisions. I think as women, for me, it’s really important to uplift women. It’s really important to unlock a really large majority of our economy, which is like you said in the banks, gets overlooked and so forth.

S. Mona Sinha:

For me, any returns I get on my investment, I look to invest in areas that are specifically working to uplift outside of the economy. If you look at the statistics, by 2020, women are going to hold $72 trillion and that’s US dollars of wealth. Well, that’s a lot of money. What are they doing with that? We’ve got to teach them to invest as well as to give away money philanthropically to lift up the whole sector. I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive.

Komal Minhas:

In terms of the partners that you do work with or what you have seen banks doing just to speak directly to this, RBC has invested in this session and also is one of the partners with the Equality Fund here in Canada, and BMO with their BMO for Women initiative, which I loved the ad that came out yesterday. I don’t know if everyone saw [Jane’s 00:18:39] story, and that’s an upbringing that I had where as we shared talking about money, there was always this aura around it, but when you look at banking partners, what are you seeing happen that is promising to you that has shown shifts in the way that we’re looking towards for the world that we want?

S. Mona Sinha:

Well, banking is changing. I think the biggest change is coming from the wealth management sector in the banks because people are now realizing that a lot of the male wealth managers really don’t know how to speak to women, and don’t know how to invest, keeping in mind the values that women want in their investment portfolios. I’ve had a lot of my friends fire their wealth managers or fire their money managers. It’s happening. There are more and more women that are doing these jobs that have a bigger and better handle on the kinds of things that people want to invest in.

S. Mona Sinha:

The Equality Fund, which by the way was started by Jessica Houssian, who comes from Women Moving Millions. We’re all very proud of her, is looking to do that. They’re looking at investment capital that’s going to be part philanthropic, part investment capital that’s going to be invested in the women that are at the grassroots doing the work and never get funded. Change is not going to come from up here. Change is going to come where people who are involved in processes, involved in the work recognizing those roadblocks, and then taking the efforts to shift them just like the entrepreneurs you see in this room and in this network.

S. Mona Sinha:

I think the more vocal women get in the banking world about this is what we want, this is our money, we own $72 trillion. We’re going to do what we want with it. I think that’s the message to get out there and with Suzanne’s work too, you invest with a gender lens, you don’t have to compromise on returns. I think if you look at some of the research that’s come out, someone talked about research, many of these investments make more money than the market does. There’s no compromise there in terms of I’m settling for less. You’re really not so why not do it? I think if there’s one thing each of us can do is go home and look at your investment portfolio and see how you invest your money.

Suzanne Biegel:

I want to talk a little bit about the conversations I am having with the banks and it echoes something [Torrie Anderson 00:20:57] mentioned earlier which is, it’s not just about what we’re investing in, it’s about how we’re investing. It’s about how are we using data, which is evidence based which really tells us, are we really improving the lives of women and girls through our investments or are we just counting? Are we just saying, “Look, there’s a woman on the board, look, there’s another woman CEO,” or are we really saying, “What are the metrics? What are the measures that would really show us that women’s lives are improving?”

Suzanne Biegel:

If that’s employees in a large organization in New York, that’s going to look different than employees in a large organization in India, in the artisanal sector. If its customers in a village in Africa, that’s going to look different than customers in Toronto, and really getting to segments and to say, “Which women and girls in which places, with which barriers, with which kind of opportunities are we really aiming to tackle?” I think we have been at sort of Gender Lens Investing 1.0 and now, it’s time. There have been a number of people who are sort of moving into 2.0.

Suzanne Biegel:

I think 2.0 has elements of getting more serious about that question. How do we know and whose expertise is valued? Something else Torrie mentioned. What data is valued? Whose expertise is valued? Whose voice is at the table? Sometimes that’s going to be a costlier process to put together because you’re going to involve more people. You’re going to take a different, you’re going to maybe take more time to understand different dynamics. You’re going to shift who is making those decisions and with Equality Fund, it’s been I’m on the investment advisory committee, it’s quite a journey that we’re on.

Suzanne Biegel:

Going around the world, doing this listening tour from women’s rights groups to say, “What’s important to you as we think about both investments and ground making to shift the system?” Boy, they’re not just waking up in the morning saying, “Bravo. Invest in public companies.” They have serious questions about everything, of the implications, the systemic implications of, if you invest in this kind of company and they’re perpetuating social norms in a particular way or keeping women in particular roles or not paying enough, what does that mean?

Suzanne Biegel:

It’s forcing us in a great way to ask really important questions but then also because we’re at the table with mainstream investors for people to need to hear it. That’s so powerful, and as investors, we have such an opportunity to say, “Again, it’s not just what I’m investing in, it’s how.” To demand of the people that we’re working with, but also to offer support. I’d like to see your shift how you’re doing this, and whether that’s me investing directly in an entrepreneur where it’s a one-to-one relationship or whether it’s me investing in a fund, if that’s investing in entrepreneurs or me investing through my bank in a fund, that’s investing into people.

Suzanne Biegel:

We have different opportunities, and where we sit, you’re sitting on Wall Street, me sitting in a different place might have a different opportunity to make a difference in that investment conversation, but I think what’s key is we all need to learn what our power is in that.

Komal Minhas:

Something that you focus on at Catalysts at Large as well and that I read in your Medium column, which thank you for giving us so much knowledge on your Medium column is around how we are putting our money forward. Why are fund managers not wanting to talk about their gender investing? Because some people are just doing it under the table, but you’re saying, no. We can’t do it under the table. We need the data. We need the research. We need the statistics to back this up.

Komal Minhas:

I’m curious in this arc of 20 years since exiting IEC and saying to your fund manager, portfolio advisor, I’m going to do this my own way. In this arc of 20 years, what would you say are some of the most important changes you’ve seen and what makes you look forward and say, “I’m so excited for the future from a systems level?” Because that is something that you’re very focused on is how do we do this from a tri-sector engagement at a macro systems level thank.

Suzanne Biegel:

Thank you for asking that. When I started investing, there was one fund in public markets that was labeled as a gender lens fund. Now, there are almost 50. So, when I-

Komal Minhas:

That deserved an applause.

Suzanne Biegel:

It’s amazing that 20 years and most of them have come in the last 5 years. It wasn’t that you could call your bank or your financial advisor and say, “Get me into one of these.” Because there weren’t one of these, right? Or then, there was an offering from one bank but not from another. The first thing that I think has shifted is there’s a lot more availability on the public market side. On the private market side, venture capital, private equity, private debt, community investing, peer-to-peer lending, angel investing, crowdfunding, think about the changes that we’ve seen just in the last 20 years and how many more platforms, how many more opportunities there are.

Suzanne Biegel:

What I think is a challenge is that people don’t know what’s out there. Still, I think we’re doing a much better job. I don’t know if [Jerry Stingel 00:26:17] is in the room, but there are people whose voices in the media have done such a good job at helping people see what’s possible, but I think we still need a lot more work on media and communication and framing. That’s key from a systemic standpoint.

Suzanne Biegel:

I think this question of what good looks like, we have good is in the eye of the beholder on a certain level but it should also be very much in the eye of who are you investing in. It’s still too much good. Good is defined by the investor more than good being defined by the entrepreneur or that end customer or that woman who’s working in the workforce or in the supply chain, and so how do we continue to shift that dialogue, that engagement, that data feedback loops? I think we’ve done so much better than when we first started.

Suzanne Biegel:

I could find lots of women entrepreneurs to invest in 20 years ago, and I could do microfinance, right? But there were a lot of lessons from microfinance which were, we were creating such over-indebtedness and despair from forcing loans on people or getting people to just take three loans to pay back the first loan. We’ve learned a lot of lessons from that, but I still think we have so much further to go.

Suzanne Biegel:

From a systemic standpoint, I think the other thing that has really shifted is people in different parts of the investment ecosystem are waking up and realizing that there is something really interesting here. That women are investable, that women as investors are key to be paying attention to. That it’s not just about women entrepreneurs, it’s about companies whose products and services improve women’s lives. It’s about companies where it’s about women in the value chain but it’s also about where are we being transformative in our investments.

Suzanne Biegel:

So, if I’m investing in an area where women weren’t truly traditionally holding roles that were well-paid or where there was advancement, what am I doing to really shift the system? I think there’s more dialogue. It’s still too niche. I think we’re getting to the point where it’s getting more mainstreamed. This is not just a, “Oh, that women strategy over in the corner.” But we’re still pretty early in that.

Suzanne Biegel:

What gives me hope is that I’m getting caught, I was pushing a pill for about, I don’t know 17 years over the last 20. It was constantly myself and a whole amazing crowd of people, we were just pushing, pushing, pushing, and about three years ago, things started to shift. It was a combination of me too and time’s up and the women’s march, and the kind of Harvey Weinstein and that all these confluence of events, the STG is coming out, the data coming out about the gender gaps, and the pay gap work that was happening, and people like Amy Cross sitting in the front row, working on gender fair and making it visible, and to investing, and women showing up, and men showing up also to invest in smart.

Suzanne Biegel:

Men showing up and investing in femme tech, right? These things all started cooking, and then my phone started ringing off the hook, and now it’s been actually this thing about how do we handle all this interest? I think what’s great is that I mean every… I love that Vicki says, “Everything’s messed up. What a great time for us to be doing we’re doing.” Right?

Suzanne Biegel:

I mean this is necessity is the mother of invention and we got a lot of great mothers here. We have so much opportunity to rethink as things are messed up and to say, “Wow.” Let’s just talk about coronavirus, whether it’s coronavirus, whether it’s climate change, whether it’s economic disruption or political disruption, where are the products and services and the ways we do business going to need to shift? Where are the really resilient businesses which are going to create resiliency in our system and women are creating so many of those businesses and how do we also make sure that we’re capitalizing that appropriately in this moment?

Suzanne Biegel:

Mona and I were talking about this before, just this aspect of when people, after two Fridays ago, people said, “Wow. Market is a mess, what are you doing?” I called two funds that I was thinking about investing in, and that I’ve been in dialogue with, and said, “By the way nothing’s changed. I’m still going to put money on your funds. I’m not going away here.”

Suzanne Biegel:

I think that’s such an important thing for us to realize that if we do have to go hunker down for a while, I’m looking at… We had a great conversation with Randy from Firm in a Box, and it’s like source of resiliency. How many of our businesses hear that? That’s what gives me hope.

Komal Minhas:

Yes. That’s amazing and what you shared about in terms of… I heard this thing last week around coronavirus in the states where it’s like this is the example of how your whole society is contingent on your most vulnerable people’s well-being and overall happiness, health, access to healthcare. If you don’t feel comfortable going to emerge because of the bill versus the fact that you need to be tested, where there’s so much innovation that can also happen right now though-

Suzanne Biegel:

It’s not to trivialize what horrible stuff is going on-

Komal Minhas:

Absolutely.

Suzanne Biegel:

… it’s really not to do that but it is to say, “Where can we be creative and innovative and use what we’ve got?”

Komal Minhas:

To jump off of that, Mona, we talked a lot about representation before we came in the room, and a lot of people here work within institutions and when you’re sharing around marketing and communications around the gender lens as kind of this next piece that we need to shift towards in this future world we’re building towards, how did you, and what advice do you have to advocate within institutions for these sorts of changes that we’re hoping to see?

Komal Minhas:

This is two questions, which I normally don’t do in one question. How do we advocate within institutions and as a woman of color at many intersections in your own identity, what is your hope for the future of the world that we want to be investing in? What does that look like for you?

S. Mona Sinha:

Do you have an hour? I would say something very fundamental that when you’re in a career, you just have to be the best at what you do. That’s just 101. If you’re really good at what you do, you get noticed, whether you’re a male, female, whatever. You just have to know what you do. I think as when I was on Wall Street as one of five women bankers, I realized that I came from a liberal arts education. I didn’t have a lot of sort of the American jargon because I moved from India.

S. Mona Sinha:

There’s certain things that were missing. I realized that if I was going to be successful I had to learn that stuff. Indra Nooyi talks about when she was CEO of Pepsi, she hired someone to teach her about American football. Right? She did that for a reason. I’m not saying everyone has to go and learn about American football, but I spend inordinate amounts of time making sure that I was as well-versed in the minutiae of modeling and understanding the financial models. I was in the Mergers and Acquisitions Department, what did it mean as the guy who sat across from me who graduated from Wharton, right?

S. Mona Sinha:

But what was interesting to me is as Suzanne said when the phone started ringing and the CEO started requesting that I be on their deals, and I was like wondering, why is that? It was actually because my liberal arts education made me a more interesting person to speak to. Because they didn’t want to talk about the deals and they didn’t want to talk about depreciation. Right? They wanted to talk about other stuff, and so just know who you are. Come into a space, and people start calling me a woman of color.

S. Mona Sinha:

When I came from India, I wasn’t a woman of color. Everybody looked like me. Right? It was a new identity and I often tell women, step into all identities you own. Don’t try and be something just because people are telling you that’s you have to be. Right? You could still be a finance jock and you can still talk about art collections and you can still talk about viruses and what they’re doing to our lives. That’s fine, and bring your whole self into whatever you do and people are actually interested in people.

S. Mona Sinha:

I just find that. You can have a conversation with a cab driver and be interested in his or her life. I don’t know. It adds something to my day every day. When people try and be a stereotype or try and fit a mold or feeling like that’s the only way to succeed, I say debunk that. In the same vein, if you come from a traditional family where the man makes the investment decisions and you’re the one sort of writing philanthropic checks. Well, turn that on its head too because it might be interesting for the husband or the man or whoever’s making those decisions to understand why you’re investing in the nonprofits that you invest in, what is it that it turns you on when someone comes and makes a pitch? How can you look at the structural inequities in businesses because fundamentally whether they’re for-profit or nonprofit they’re all businesses?

S. Mona Sinha:

I tell you a story, I was asked to invest in an agro tech farm business in India, which was very interesting to me because there had been a whole spate of farmer suicides and you’re actually seeing that now across the world, and the reason is because with climate change there’s so much dependency on rain, and then when it doesn’t happen, you know the rest of the story.

S. Mona Sinha:

So, when this group came to me, I said, “All right. Who are you training?” Because their solution and we saw some of these actually in the main stage, was to create these environments and they were doing greenhouses, pop-up greenhouses where you could actually grow crops, and you could go take loans from banks, and so it was a lot of teaching going on.

S. Mona Sinha:

I said, “Who are you training?” They’re like, “Well, of course, we’re training the farmers.” I’m like, “Who are the farmers?” Of course, it was all the men in these Indian villages, and I said, “Well, why aren’t you training their spouses?” They were like, “Well, but they’re not the ones farming. They’re at home. They’re doing other things.” I said, “All right. Talk to me in six months.”

S. Mona Sinha:

Honestly, six months to the dot they called back and they said, “How did you know?” I said, “What did I know?” They said, “Well, the rains failed so all the men went into the towns to look for jobs because they had to make some money.” So, who was doing the farming? The women. Right? They trained the wrong people. Then, they came back again, and I said, “All right. Now, that you’re training the right people. That’s great. Step one. Can you talk to them about land rights?” Who owns the land? Sure enough, it’s the men, right?

S. Mona Sinha:

Unless you let women have agency in what they do and actually own what they rightfully should be owning and that’s where it starts. That’s what I say about funding grassroots organizations because they know the problems that happen at the grassroots. Right? It’s very easy to say, “Oh Gates Foundation, this is what you should do.” But unless you’re proximate and go down and actually see where the interventions could fail, you’re not going to succeed.

S. Mona Sinha:

I mean you can come in and say, there was an incident, I support an organization that works in sex trafficking and one of the interventions was to deliver condoms. Well, guess what? It had the opposite effect. Again, being proximate, talking to the people that are doing the work is really important in making the change.

Suzanne Biegel:

You and I have some really different ways I think that we approach our investing too, and you, I’ve seen you do such extraordinary philanthropy and extraordinary investing but you have been in our conversations focused on I want to demonstrate that this investing women can also really make money. Right? My philosophy has been that within my investing part that I will take higher return investments, medium return investments, and low return investments.

Suzanne Biegel:

I do less philanthropy now because I’m really, and my philanthropy tends to go to systems shifting work, and more than anything. It’s like not generally direct service. I just feel like that’s a role that I can play, and supporting the field of gender lens investing, but on the investing side, I have in my portfolio things that are like a 1% return, a 3% return, a 5%, a 10%, and then aiming for sort of higher double digits. Right? I’m making these choices and saying sometimes like the best thing that I could do is do something that’s got really low return but it’s an investment to really demonstrate that, and that thing may for X number of years stay at that level, and then ultimately tick up or it may just never be because that’s the level of return that is a fair return for what we’re trying to do.

Suzanne Biegel:

I think what’s great is that this is what makes the world go round. We all get to make these different choices. We all get to do this a different way. I think one of the things we need to get out into the world is that you can consciously choose, you’re building a portfolio to take on things which are lower return and higher return for a reason because societal barriers, the gender norms might cause something to be not a higher return opportunity or something about the market dynamics where you’re still trying to build a market an appreciation for a way of doing business doesn’t have a high return early on.

Suzanne Biegel:

There’s a time horizon on that too. Right? There’s this whole thing about, “Well, I have to get my money back out within two years, three years, five years.” My attitude is I’m only 57 years old. I don’t actually need this money tomorrow. Although, I mean I’m not going to look at my rent money this way but I can have a long-term perspective. If you’re a pension fund, by the way, if you’re a foundation, if you’re a college and university [inaudible 00:40:07], you could have a long-term perspective.

Suzanne Biegel:

A lot of them don’t act as if they have a long-term perspective, which is something we need to really shift, and we can use our voices to help shift that, but I think that’s the other thing is getting people to think in terms of a longer time horizon.

Komal Minhas:

It’s also that the more diverse our individual portfolio composition is, the stronger we’re going to be as a system because the more diverse ethos we have around investing, the stronger we’re going to be across the board. At this time, I’m going to open up to the floor for questions from the audience. We have time for two questions. We got very much into our dialogue. So, if there is someone with a mic who is coming around, we have a question just in the back.

Judy Fairburn:

Oh, you hold it. Great. Yeah. Nobody should touch anything. Not so funny. I’m Judy Fairburn from Calgary, co-founder of the 51. You may know about us.

Komal Minhas:

Yes.

Judy Fairburn:

I’m curious if you could just share, and I’m an active investor. We’ve put over $5 million to work in 17 companies in a year and it’s been quite a journey but I’d love the panel’s input and how you groom investors because it’s a big step for people to say, “I want to do it.” Then, they take the first step, and the next, and the next. So, your insights, please.

Komal Minhas:

Absolutely. Who would like to field this one?

Suzanne Biegel:

Well, I love that SheEO is a great first step. Right? I just love, and this is what I say to people is if you want to learn about business and investment and you haven’t done this before, get involve with SheEO because it’s an easy way to just start to be on that journey. Right? But I think there’s, just like anything else, we have to build muscle, we have to go through some learning. I’m really big into peer learning.

Suzanne Biegel:

I think that there’s some things you can learn out of a book but I’m not a big book learner, action learning by getting involved. I think doing it in community is extraordinary. I think creating an environment where there are no stupid questions. When I went to Wharton, we both went to Wharton, it wasn’t necessarily an environment where there were no stupid questions. But I didn’t study finance, I studied marketing and management.

Suzanne Biegel:

I mean I had to study some finance but I had a lot of really basic questions when I started out. I was embarrassed that I had run this business and I had gone to Wharton, there were a lot of things about investing that I didn’t actually know. I was lucky enough to be with some people where I felt like safe enough, and when I teach, I just I’m like, “Anything you need to know, anything you need to ask there, just let’s get rid of that.”

Suzanne Biegel:

I’ve been in far too many investment training environments where it doesn’t feel that way. You feel like, “Oh my god. I’m supposed to know what that means.” These are a couple things.

S. Mona Sinha:

I think it’s basic risk return, we all know that. Right? How much of your money are you willing to risk and how much of it do you want a safe return? It also deals with time horizons. It’s pretty basic. I think the big high comes from when you do make a big return. I mean that’s not like [inaudible 00:43:07]. That allows you to take a little more risk.

S. Mona Sinha:

I think it is initially baby steps. I agree with you completely, investing in community, having a group of people you can talk to is fun. It’s a nice way to do it, but I think fundamentals at the end of the day.

Komal Minhas:

I’d also say for me, when I started investing and I was a young when I was able to start investing. The fear is real, and not necessarily because of risk but just because of lack of knowledge. So, just having that access to resources or a shared place for learning from resources, and then encouraging discipline. Because as a young investor like discipline, I don’t have it yet. I’m working on it. It’s an interesting time in the market to be like, “Wow. You need to be really disciplined right now.” But that would also be something I’d share there.

Komal Minhas:

One more question from the audience. I hope we hit on research enough in the dialogue for you.

Jessica:

Yes. There is another research related question. I’m Jessica. I have my own research consulting firm. I specialize in evidence-based research, and hence, the question that I’m trying to frame in the most succinct way possible. But I want to understand how defining the global goals. I mean has that impacted the decision of impact based investing at all and to what extent?

S. Mona Sinha:

Well, Suzanne could talk about impact investing better than I can but I think it’s impacted the way that even large corporations think. For me, that’s been a really big shift. Now, you have companies and you have business schools that are talking about profits and purpose. I mean it’s common sense. I think to have the definition on a global basis that actually highlight specific goals, I mean people like these micro goals. Right? To say number five is gender. Oh yeah. But guess what? We haven’t done so well in that.

S. Mona Sinha:

People feel like it’s measurable. I think that has caused some shift. There’s much more to be done, don’t get me wrong, but I think that having global goals is a good thing.

Suzanne Biegel:

I do but there’s so much more work to be done. I think people like you are going to become more and more essential. We do not have enough talent in the marketplace that knows how to do good gender analysis, knows how to do good research and analysis. I think Joy and Anderson and I have been talking about this a lot. Where are we worried that we don’t have enough capacity right now to fulfill the demand, it’s that. It’s the real gender expertise. It’s real analysis.

Suzanne Biegel:

It’s like a boom time for that right now. I do worry that people slap a label on something and they say, “Look, I’m STG-5.” It’s like pink washing and it’s like, “Look, I made a pink.” I don’t know pink. I made a pink laptop. So, boom. I’m STG-5. No. You’re really not.

Speaker 11:

It was finance [inaudible 00:46:03] RBC.

Komal Minhas:

That’s a little early. Oh my goodness.

Speaker 11:

[inaudible 00:46:09]

Komal Minhas:

Oh no.

Speaker 11:

Next up, our final topic of the day [inaudible 00:46:15] at 2:15. During this [inaudible 00:46:24]-

Komal Minhas:

[inaudible 00:46:24]

Speaker 11:

… [inaudible 00:46:24] are closed. So, you can get ready for the after party tonight at 5:00 PM. If you don’t have a ticket already, you can purchase one at the registration guest. Over the Summit Stage-

Komal Minhas:

We’re still going.

Speaker 11:

… [inaudible 00:46:36] using nature’s [inaudible 00:46:39] featuring Denise Hearn and Denise Williams. Over at Wisdom [inaudible 00:46:43], we have activators, stories of transformation and discussion featuring Alexandra [Leroux 00:46:50], Kathy Bennett and Tracy Gray. If you’d like to sit down tonight, quite time or reading time, our [inaudible 00:46:58] the SheEO lounge. If you are [crosstalk 00:47:03] you can access it from the SheEO lounge. All speakers, please try and visit the video testimonial room before the end of the day. [inaudible 00:47:18] [crosstalk 00:47:18] our host Jessie [inaudible 00:47:22], asks us start thinking about this at the beginning of [inaudible 00:47:26] Summit.

Speaker 11:

At the end of the day, we’ll come together and actually participate, and then ask [inaudible 00:47:31]. Also, a reminder-

Komal Minhas:

I like [crosstalk 00:47:35]

Speaker 11:

… sign up for your [inaudible 00:47:36] deep dive sessions for day two now, sessions are open. We are heading into [inaudible 00:47:42] session start promptly at 2:15.

Komal Minhas:

All right. Okay. I’m going to bring us back in. We were in a really great dialogue, and I just don’t want us to lose that momentum. I’m reclaiming two minutes of time. I know that thing is shouting at me silently. But just to bring us back into this space of investing in the world that we want. We’ve been able to cover a lot of ground. From 20 years of experience in the industry to seeing systems change, and a lot of the change that we’ve wanted to see, to conversations around how do we balance both philanthropy and returns based investing?

Komal Minhas:

Something I do want to make space forward for you, Mona, is something you educated me about in the lounge is Women Moving Millions, I don’t need to put a million dollars into women to be a part of your community, and that was a barrier that I had, that I just would love for you to share a little bit around your membership to this audience.

S. Mona Sinha:

Sure. You do have to put a million dollars into Women but over 10 years.

Komal Minhas:

Yes. Over 10 years. Yes. Not in one year.

S. Mona Sinha:

[crosstalk 00:48:45] so it’s not as daunting as it may seem. We have about 330-odd members and we’ve counted about $800 million that have been put into the world so far, and it’s not all just philanthropic money, it is actually shifting somewhat to getting women to look at those investments that allow them to be philanthropic. It’s both and Suzanne’s been a great partner in that work as well. So, if any of you are interested, please look us up and join the community.

Komal Minhas:

Catalyst at Large has a summit that is postponed currently but that our audience can also explore. Would you like to share a little bit about that gathering?

Suzanne Biegel:

Yeah. So, if people want to follow GenderSmartIS, that is one way. We were on the verge of doing this extraordinary summit at the end of April. It’s postponed until December but we’re… That means we’re going to do even more online in between. I do want to say one other thing. The world that we want, everybody defines that, you may care about, you may be climate change and food security and mental health and Mid-East peace and whatever your thing might be, what’s an incredible opportunity right now is to be looking at where can investment be a tool around that. Right?

Suzanne Biegel:

To keep it in context of we need philanthropy, we need grassroots organizing, we need policy change, we need the shift in how business gets done. Investment is just one tool, but at this point day and time, there’s almost anything that you might care about which is the peace of the world that you want, that you want to help create, that you can find a way to invest in it. If it’s not a structured product that exists, it’s something you can help create. So, just want to really put that out there to the group.

Komal Minhas:

Amazing. Last question, because you’re probably both going to answer this right now anyways because it’s where we’re going. But when it comes to the world you want to see, what does that look like to you and how can we work to, how can we as a collective support us getting there? Big last question.

S. Mona Sinha:

Yeah. Well, just in a few seconds. I think the world is intersectional and we know that. I think as women, we know that in so many ways. We wear so many different hats every single day, every single minute. Let’s recognize that and instead of actually trying to silo the intersectionality, let’s live into it, and so whatever resources we have, whether it’s research, whether its investment capital, whether it’s philanthropy or it’s our own interest in something that we want to uplift, just step into it.

Komal Minhas:

Last word, Suzanne.

Suzanne Biegel:

I think it’s about fairness and justice. I think it’s about planet and people. It’s about relationships and it’s about really creating the opportunity and a level playing field, a more level playing field for everyone, men and women, boys and girls, to thrive and to be able to sustain community and planet.

Komal Minhas:

Thank you so much. This was such a fruitful dialogue. It was a privilege to take the stage with you, Mona, and with you Suzanne. This was such a wonderful conversation for us all to engage with. I hope we all walk away just feeling a little bit more clear on that world that it is we’re working towards together, and that we have a little bit more in our toolkit for how to get there.

Komal Minhas:

I’m Komal Minhas, the host of Lessons Learned. I hope you’ll check out my show on everywhere you can consume podcasts and enjoy the rest of your day. Thank you, everybody.

Jessy Wang:

This has been a special episode of sheeo.world. A podcast about redesigning the world at SheEO Global Summit Edition.

 

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