The impact of the climate crisis on women, access to finance, the importance of diversity and female leadership. Trending topics we talked about with Invest International’s top women: Chief Finance & Risk Officer (CFRO) Vanessa Hart and Director Business Development Strategy & Impact Femke Bos, listed in the ‘Top 50 Women in Sustainable Finance 2022’.
This year International Women’s Day was all about breaking stereotypes, with the hashtag #BreaktheBias. Countering prejudice and becoming aware of what is often ‘unconscious bias’ that affects gender equality, inclusion and diversity. Have you always recognized the importance of diversity?
“I always thought the focus on diversity was nonsense,” says Vanessa. “My idea was: if you work hard enough, you will get there. Until I looked back and saw that it had not happened by itself and that good and talented people often drop out. The financial, corporate world is quite masculine, there is still a lot to do. If you recognize the importance of diversity, it really works as a success factor. It is something to which you have to pay structural attention. I am into this important topic pushing for this together with my colleagues at Invest International.”
Femke: “I wasn’t focused on this topic before. But, over time you see that many women and also men give up on the system, especially if it only revolves around targets and to do’s. If you don’t score on that, you won’t be seen. I look beyond that in my leadership style. We work on common goals. Diversity and inclusion are about the culture and how we interact with each other. Not just masculine and driven; you have to look at the qualities of people and the environment. Then the results will follow automatically.”
Gender inequality and the climate crisis are closely linked to another. Women and girls in particular belong to the most vulnerable groups and are directly affected by climate change.
UN Women, the UN body for gender equality and women’s empowerment, has chosen ‘Gender equality today for a sustainable future’ as the theme in 2022. Women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change?
“Gender inequality and the climate crisis are closely linked to another. Women and girls in particular belong to the most vulnerable groups and are directly affected by climate change. They often bear the greatest risks in climate disasters and women are there to take care of the family, food, water – natural resources – and protect the earth and environment.”
Adding to this: “We must include women in a solution and commit to more empowerment of women in this area. Attention is also needed for leadership in the climate sector, there are not a lot of women on decision making positions in this field. Women are the crucial link,” says Femke.Read more on what we do in the Climate & Energy sector
“Make impact? Waiting in a room until someone notices you doesn't help, you have to become visible at a higher level.”
Femke BosDirector Business Development Strategy & Impact Invest International
‘Women entrepreneurs experience more difficulties in attracting capital,’ Dutch news site NOS.nl headlined recenlty following a study by ABN AMRO Bank. What role can Invest International play in improving this?
Femke: “Business wise women are less likely to get a loan than men. In the Netherlands and especially in emerging markets. That is why I am also happy that at Invest International we entered in a partnership with Karmijn Kapitaal, the investment fund led by women that invests in diverse companies where women are at the top. Women look more holistically and at the long-term impact. Also very important in realizing the SDGs.”
“Access to finance is still much more difficult for women than for men. But, I didn’t realize before that it is also difficult for women on the business side. I hope that our awareness on this matter and Invest International contribute to slowly changing this,” says Vanessa.
“I hope so too,” adds Femke. “With our investment policy, I want to make a positive contribution to improving the living wage for women and the conditions under which they work. Something on which we want to focus strongly with our impact and ESG policy. And, not just as a ‘tick the box’. I think it would be nice to make it conditional on our financing, working on this together with other investors, banks, governments and local communities. We cannot do that alone.”Read more on our partnership with Karmijn Kapitaal
“As a woman, you often feel that you need to be seen, heard or understood, but the average manager doesn't see that.”
Vanessa HartCFRO Invest International
With its investment policy Invest International wishes to make a positive contribution to improving the living wage for women (and men) and the conditions under which they work.
Both of you are inspiring examples of female leadership. Who or what helped you on your way and did the opportunities present themselves naturally?
Vanessa: “To achieve this, I have learned that I have to express ambitions. As a woman you often have the idea that you need to be seen, heard or understood, but the average manager does not see that. My colleagues have always been very important on the way here. Especially when I wondered: ‘Do I still want this?’ Discuss it together, help the people around you and join forces.”
“Find your role models”, is Femke’s conviction. “When working at Triodos Investment Management, which started small, I had a female manager. She was a role model for me. We went through growth together and were able to discuss the struggles she also had. I strongly believe in sisterhood in that regard. In my career I have initiated all the steps myself and very often indicated: ‘Let me do this. I want this’.”
“If you want to make an impact on personal vision, you cannot sit in a room waiting until someone notices you. You have to become visible on a higher level.”More on our Management Team & Supervisory Board