Great books to support your gender lens investing journey

The following article was written by Suzanne Biegel, former IFB Steering Committee member, and first published in May 2021. 


There is a suite of books and resources from leading thinkers in the investment community that either touch upon or more deeply examine gender-smart investing. This explosion of gender-smart literature speaks to both a growing interest in women’s financial empowerment, and a hunger amongst investors – men and women – more generally for information about moving their money is smart and in a way that aligns with their values.

These books all tackle gender-smart investing from different perspectives, and are great resources to share with your friends, colleagues, clients, to deepen your own thinking, or to start you on your gender-smart investment journey. Read on to learn more about these fantastic resources and their authors, and choose one – or more – to grace your bookshelf.

Financial Feminism by Jessica Robinson (released in February 2021)

Jessica is an active investor, based in Dubai, and so committed to getting women engaged around impact investing. Her book, Financial Feminism, is a response to the “investment gap” between men and women – aiming not just to get more women to start investing, but to inspire them to invest their money with intention. As Jessica put it in a recent interview with UAE’s National News, “Financial feminism represents the opportunity for women to use their financial power to build the kind of world that they want to live in.”

The Good Your Money Can Do by Eva Yahzari (released in March 2021)

Eva started her career in mainstream finance, before diving into impact investing many years ago with Beyond Capital Fund, a nonprofit gender lens fund investing in emerging markets. She now runs Beyond Capital Ventures, a for-profit fund with a similar remit, and co-hosts The Beyond Capital Podcast. The Good Your Money Can Do is targeted at the experienced traditional investor who is curious about investing their money in line with their values. A relentless field-builder and fellow Toniic investor for many years, Eva argues that “money is currency and currency is energy.”

Moving Money for Impact: A Guide to Gender Lens Investing by Tuti Scott with Lex Schroeder (released in March 2021)

Tuti has been a long-distance runner in philanthropy and the crossover to impact investing and gender lens investing. She was most recently chair of the board of Tides Foundation and then its acting Executive Director. Moving Money for Impact is a free guide that takes a practical look at the gender lens investing field, spotlighting innovative gender lens investors such as the Texas Women’s Foundation, Tara Health Foundation, and Adasina Social Capital, as well as deeper philosophical lessons about naming and shifting power.

Activate Your Money by Janine Firpo (released in April 2021)

Janine is another very active impact investor, a fellow member of Next Wave Impact, and a passionate field builder. She wrote this book in partnership with more than 150 people, with the goal of helping women “who have been left out of the financial conversation to take control of their money, to learn how to invest with confidence, and to give them the options they need to make investments in the things they care about.” The result is a real “how to” of impact and gender lens investing, with practical information on everything from choosing a bank, to bonds, public equities, private investments, pensions, financial advisors, and more. I was lucky enough to read a sneak preview and I love this guide.

Adventure Finance by Aunnie Patton Power (released June 2021)

Aunnie has been teaching impact investing for many, many years in Africa and the UK. She wrote Adventure Finance on the premise that although venture capital is the highest profile type of investment, it doesn’t work for 99% of startups and small businesses – which means we need alternatives, both for founders and for funders. The book helps to explain what some of these alternatives are, and walks the reader through real life examples of how founders and funders have put them to use. This is a deep dive on alternative, innovative, and blended finance models. I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview and I am counting on this as a real handbook for me and everyone I know on alternative investment models. While these tools and models can be useful for all investment, I find them particularly relevant for gender-smart investing.

Impact Investing Handbook by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (released in 2020)

I carried around the original version of this for many years to share with impact investors and those who were moving from philanthropy to impact investing, and I was delighted to have the chance to write the section on gender lens investing for the updated version, released last year. Rockefeller’s guide is a practical publication featuring case studies and detailed guidance for individuals, families, foundations, and corporates. I love this book, and think it’s a key resource for any impact investor or someone who wants to learn about impact investing.

Global Handbook of Impact Investing co-edited by R. Paul Herman & Elsa de Morais Sarmenton (released in 2020)

The Global Handbook of Impact Investing offers an extensive recap of the best practices and thought leadership over a wide range of sustainability themes. I’ve been investing with Paul for many years via HIP Investor and I really respect his ability to address mainstream investing with an ESG lens, viewing gender as a core factor for so long. The book is unique for its global perspective, bringing together knowledge and case studies spanning five continents.

Build Your Financial Foundation

In order to be a smart, confident investor, you need some baseline knowledge and tools to make sound investments. That is true whether those investments are values-aligned or not. Since our society has not done a great job of educating women about basic investment concepts, investing can be intimidating or overwhelming for a lot of us.

Knowledge about a few key investment concepts can go a very long way toward empowering individuals in making wise and informed investment decisions. This is true for all types of investors, such as recent graduates new to saving and investing, midterm careerists, newly single, recipients of new wealth, and women entering retirement.

  • Your income comfortably covers your ongoing expenses
  • You have manageable debt, which means you can avoid high-interest debt and comfortably afford your monthly debt repayments
  • You have at least three to six months of readily available (e.g., “liquid”) funds to cover needed expenses in case of an emergency or other unexpected even

If you’re not quite there yet, don’t worry or be ashamed. Whether you are young or old, you’re not alone. A study by Charles Schwab found that only 28% of Americans have a written financial plan. Those who do, however, feel more financially stable and demonstrate better saving and investing behavior.

Know what you own

It’s going to be impossible for you to invest your money wisely if you don’t know how much money you have and where it is. You’d be surprised by how few of us actually know where all our money is being held and what it’s invested in. So, the first thing to do, if you haven’t done so already, is to take inventory. To help you do this, you can download the What You Have Worksheet and watch the 5-minute demo that explains how to use the worksheet.

Understand why diversification is a key to success

One of the keys to successful investing is diversifying your assets across several different types of investments to mitigate risk. This Nerdwallet article does a great job of explaining what diversification is, why it is important, and how to do it. The post includes a table that shows how different asset classes performed relative to each other year-over-year and contains a neat little tool that shows you what basic, intermediate, and advanced allocations of cash, fixed income, and stock could look like.

When you know what you own and how your money is diversified, it is much easier to determine whether your investments are aligned with your values or undermining them. You can look at your investments asset class by asset class, starting with your cash, which you will learn about in the next resource.

Why I Co-Led an IFB Circle & Why You Should Too!

I am the founder and host of OUR MONEY POWER – a podcast for women who are ready to stand in their money power and invest with their values. I started the podcast last year, for many of the same reasons that I got involved with Invest for Better. I had my own “financial awakening” just a few years back when I realized I could no longer sit on the sidelines of my own money power, as so many of us are socialized to do. Women don’t tend to talk about money or investments with each other, as men do – and that keeps us playing small. It certainly doesn’t help us build wealth or have agency around our money.

Women tend be better investors than men, we just don’t believe that about ourselves. Research also shows that women are much more likely to move their money in community or within circles of other women – which is why the Invest for Better model is so powerful!

IFB welcomes women exactly where they are on their investment journey – whether total beginners or more experienced investors who want to deepen their knowledge about gender-lens and impact investing. As a mission-driven person, the concept of investing with my values really resonated with me. I loved the idea of peer-to-peer learning circles too. Having recently co-led two IFB circles, I have experienced the impact of this model first-hand, for participants and co-leaders alike. My learning circles ended up being great for accountability too – as we would share our “money moving” wins at the end of each session.



My first money move in my IFB circle was to look at my retirement accounts – and for the first time examine what I was actually invested in – as I’d never paid attention before. It was very exciting to learn that I could move some of my investments in my Roth IRA to funds more supportive of women’s leadership – without any tax consequences. Looking at my investments through the lens of what I valued most, made investing so much more interesting! I learned that I could grow my money  — AND support what I valued. I got so inspired that I wanted to bring other women along.

This curiosity was my starting point for joining the incredibly welcoming Invest for Better women’s community. I knew I wanted to join a circle – though I was very hesitant and nervous to lead one because I didn’t have a background in the financial services sector and believed I was at the beginning of my own investment journey. Fortunately, IFB co-founder, Ellen Remmer, encouraged me to lead a circle anyway – and then matched me with a co-lead who had a professional financial services background. I had such a positive experience co-leading my first circle, that I eagerly decided to co-lead a second group (and intend to co-lead a third soon). If you are all considering being a co-lead, I cannot recommend it enough – as there is so much built-in support for new leaders.

One of the roles of the leaders is to invite women into the circle. As a white LGBTQ+ identifying woman, I was especially mindful to invite a diverse circle of women. One of my IFB circles was composed of mostly BIPOC women leaders at large philanthropic institutions. They were moving significant amounts of other people’s money all day long, but didn’t feel much agency related to their own personal investments and family finances. IFB gave them the confidence they needed to consider their own money.

IFB provides the community, support and structure for welcoming women wherever they are at on their investment learning journey. If you are ready to step into your own money power, the IFB community is a great way to start – and co-leading a circle is an especially powerful invitation to bring along your friends and other women to stand in their money power too!


Kristin Hayden is an acclaimed social entrepreneur and executive leader with 25 years of global experience. She has spent her career developing, empowering, and investing in underrepresented youth and women leaders. Ms. Hayden was recognized as an Ashoka Fellow after founding OneWorld Now!, a global leadership program for underrepresented youth. In addition to serving as Chief Partnership Officer at IGNITE, Ms. Hayden recently served as the Interim CEO of ReflectUS, a coalition of leading nonpartisan women’s political organizations. She is a high-energy public speaker and champion of vision, diversity and inclusion, women’s leadership, political representation, and financial inclusion. She is the founder and host of Our Money Power, a podcast for women who are ready to stand in their money power and invest with their values.




Choosing an Impact Investing Advisor: A Conversation with Two Investors

At an Invest for Better Circle meeting in Boston, the question emerged: “Is the role of the advisor to lead or follow you?”  Circle members Amy Brakeman and Maria Jobin-Leeds had a lot to say on this topic, so Ellen Remmer, co-founder of Invest for Better, asked them for an in-depth interview to dig deeper. 

As you’ll read, their responses indicate an evolution in thinking and experience over time. 

ELLEN: You’ve both been at this business of investing for good for a while. When you were first looking for impact investing advisors, what qualities were you looking for?  

MARIA: It was 20 years ago when we first came into this money and I really had no experience. Luckily, we had some time to be methodical about it. I was looking for someone who would look at me (as a woman), be kind to me; who I would feel safe and respected by. I was looking for someone local, who I could have a relationship with. And we were looking for someone who would do good with the money; I think we called it SRI back then. 

We interviewed 4 teams; all of whom were either led by or included females. One guy, however, never looked in my eyes; so he lost the job in 5 seconds. The choice we made included an all female team, including a leader who took a lot of guff when she pushed SRI so many years ago and I really wanted to support her. I continue to adore them and find them respectful, values-centered and welcoming. Later, after the 2008 market crash, we added another research-driven advisor to work with the Foundation, and were happy that the staff included two progressive people of color.

AMY: For me, the money was and wasn’t sudden. My husband was a professional money manager and, in the beginning, we used to talk about all of our investments. As time went by, I got more focused on philanthropy.  When we got divorced, I suddenly had cash that needed to be invested. In looking for an advisor, I didn’t care about geography but they had to be in the top quartile of impact investing advisors; and not just doing ESG in public markets. I care about deeper impact through all asset classes and across all pockets of assets. I didn’t want anybody affiliated with a big bank or who sold product. Given this frame, I mainly found small shops which can be vulnerable to having their business model work so there can be turnover of individual advisors and mergers. It felt like a high stakes decision that couldn’t switch if it turned out wrong – which I’ve learned is not true. I prioritize what my network recommends and I kept hearing about a few advisors from folks in the Toniic and Gratitude Railroad LINK networks. It was at one of those meetings that I ran into both finalists and decided to go with the one that I thought I could have more of a personal relationship with. My lead advisor is excellent; someone who is super connected and committed, who can blend investing and philanthropy.

ELLEN: Now that you’ve been at it for a while, have your views changed on the qualities that you want in your impact investing advisors? 

MARIA: I’m a different person 20 years later. I have more confidence and gender isn’t as important to me. As I keep my eyes open for additional advisors, I have people on the list who aren’t local but I still want a relationship and see them face-to-face. I will press them more on the specifics, their definition of impact and their metrics – which I couldn’t have done initially. At that time I was more focused on finding someone who could make me competent enough to give direction! 

Here’s an example of how I have changed and this informs my thinking about what I would want in an advisor. I remember getting into a 1 hour discussion with one of my advisors who didn’t think that I should put more into CDFI’s because of the impact on my asset allocation. I was practically in tears, because I wanted to put money at the local level in the hands of people of color, but realized that my advisor had been trained for years with this mindset and I was bumping up against it. After a few days, I decided to do it anyway.  

AMY: In the first few years, my advisors led me, which is what I wanted. I wanted them to help me shift quickly from cash to a diversified impact portfolio. I would add a few investments from my networks in Africa and work on education to employment. So all was going well generally. However, I noticed that the private funds and direct deals I added to the pipeline would get stuck in due diligence. 

During Spring 2020, when I noticed the COVID-related health disparity outcomes along racial lines, I started being far more assertive in my investing. As I sourced and wanted to proceed with funds led by Underrepresented People of Color who were launching new funds or ventures, I was often told “Wait until Fund II.” At this point, I dove in to lead and approve selected private investments. Interestingly after my decision to invest in specific funds, other investors at the same advisor would invest also.

In 2021, I have also added two “satellite” advisors to my core advisor so that I have access to a bigger and relevant pipeline and a DD process that meets my strategy around being more redistributive in getting capital and returns to people who have been systematically denied access. My goal is not to make as much money as I can; my goal is to make as much impact in the world while at the same time earning enough for my lifetime. I am risk tolerant and have become aware that the financial system is risk averse and isn’t going to move as fast as I want it to. My new approach is working very well.

MARIA: That is a critical change point that not everybody gets to, but I’m also at that point. All of the things I wished for in that first phase are not adequate for the second phase. How do you find someone who doesn’t have that box around them?  The bulk of what they are doing is incrementally improving on Capitalism 1.0.  I’m looking for 2 and they are harder to find and to some degree it becomes a partnership in this phase. 

ELLEN: What do you think is the role of the asset owner – you – in influencing the impact advisory field?  What about groups like Invest for Better?

MARIA: We have a remarkable ability to change our advisors and that will change the field.  One of my key advisors developed expertise in this because clients were whining about it. She told me that she loved it when I would ask for things because she improved, and the firm improved. In fact, she became so competent, she was snatched away by a major asset owner!    

AMY: I agree completely. And I think that Invest for Better Circles makes for better consumers; if more of us assert our needs; then we will change the system. Then Maria and I won’t be the outliers talking to our advisors. IFB Circles can give more women voice and power, and then the whole advisory system will offer more.  

Breaking Taboos By Talking About Our Money

All of us have personal stories about money – how to earn it, how to spend it, and how to invest it. Many of these stories come from our formative years and are so ingrained that we may not even recognize them as stories or understand the sway they have over our behavior. Sometimes these stories serve us well and sometimes they sabotage us. As a result how you think about your money – and the stories you tell yourself about your finances – can have a significant impact on your ability to grow your wealth and invest with confidence.

Break taboos by talking about our money

One way to break the taboo about money is by having conversations about it. You can start very simply by talking to family or friends, either one-on-one or in small groups, about aspects of the subject that are not intimidating. Discussing your money stories and the values that you would like to support with your money can be a great opening. These conversation prompts can get you over the hurdle of kicking off those conversations. You might be surprised by what you learn and what these conversations open up for you in terms of your own money beliefs.

  • What is your first memory about money?
  • How do you think this memory informs your current beliefs about money?
  • You should always…
  • Thinking back to when you were growing up, what was the most important rule you learned about money? Often, this rule takes the form of “you should always…” or “you should never…” What was that rule for you? Do you still believe it?
  • What would you like to change?
  • What would you like to change about your beliefs or “stories” about money? How might those changes affect your sense of security and well-being?
  • What would a healthy relationship with money look like for you?

Discover your dominant financial archetypes

Brent Kessel, the founder and CEO of Abacus Wealth Partners, a values-aligned financial advisory firm, developed eight financial archetypes that described the financial and behavioral characteristics he saw in his clients. Based on his analysis, Brent designed a simple straight-forward quiz that can help anyone identify their, often unconscious, financial biases.

Once you complete the quiz, you will receive an analysis of your dominant financial archetypes. Your email is required to receive the results. You can learn more about Brent and how the archetypes were developed in this 17-minute video.

Drawing On Collective Knowledge of Women & Investments

For eons, women have shared their wealth of knowledge with one another to benefit others in similar circumstances. Invest for Better is continually working to create and nurture a trusted community of women who can rely on each other for insight and suggestions, where questions can be posed safely, and where hard-earned wisdom is shared among members.

Last winter, we launched “Investments You Love” as a new member benefit where you can help other women find great investments by sharing your favorites and why you love them. Here we’re sharing some favorite investments from Invest for Better Pathfinders.