Unleashing the power of Impact Investing

Aug 15, 2023

October 10, 2023 New York City - 1

“Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.”

Squire Bill Widener (via Teddy Roosevelt)

An Editorial by:
Karyn Polak, Founder and President, Shift the Prism Advisory


Remember 100 Women in HedgeFunds? Founded more than 20 years ago, the organization has since evolved into 100 Women In Finance, an organization seeking to address the under-representation of women in finance,  investment and fintech roles and to evolve the public perception of what an expert in these fields looks like.  This October 10th in NYC, 100 Women In Finance is hosting a day-long Impact Investing Symposium featuring keynote speakers, panel discussions and “Table Talks” focused on key #impactinvesting developments, best practices, analytics, implementation challenges and success stories, and much more.  According to a new report from The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, there were $17.1 trillion in responsibly invested assets in the U.S. at the start of 2020, representing a 42 percent increase from $12 trillion just two years prior.

Yet even with that kind of momentum, the need to mobilize capital for positive impact – values-aligned, mission-aligned, people- and planet-focused investing – is vastly greater than the assets moving in that direction today.  We simply cannot continue, as we have for the last many decades, to focus solely or even primarily on financial returns for companies and projects; the analysis for go/no-go has to consider whether the effort delivers positive total returns when taking into account not just financial but also social, environmental, and human impact.  Without downplaying the severity of the situation, it is evident that our planet is facing the significant challenge of climate change. Additionally, there remains the pressing issue of widespread hunger, homelessness, and the enduring impact of historical and ongoing trauma on mental health and overall well-being. However, these are only a few examples of the many complex global issues we currently face.

So why 100 Women In Finance?  Why is this global organization taking up this topic at this moment?  Consider these factors[1]:

  • 61% of women between the ages of 30 and 40 choose their investments based on their social or environmental impact.
  • While women make up half of the world’s population, they only manage approximately $72 trillion, the equivalent of one-third of the world’s wealth.
  • If women were to invest at the same rate as men, there would potentially be an additional $1.87 trillion dedicated to responsible investing.


These statistics shed light on the involvement of women in two key roles within the investment landscape. Firstly, as individual investors, women play a significant role as asset owners. Secondly, as investment managers or other decision-makers, they contribute to shaping capital flows as asset allocators. These findings highlight some of the diverse ways in which women are engaged in the world of investments.

Women are also business owners, development project managers, employees, community leaders, artists and activists, politicians, academics and other educators…all roles that involve agency – that is, the ability to influence even if not to direct where investments are made.

Given this backdrop, it is crucial for each of us to reflect on an important question: How are we applying our monetary agency? We must consider the various ways in which we can be intentional and purposeful in utilizing the power we have within our respective roles.  Whether you are a student living hand-to-mouth, or the Chief Investment Officer of a top-10 university endowment, or the General Counsel of a Fortune 500 multinational, you have the opportunity to bend the arc of capital more towards justice (if you’ll forgive the repurposing of that beautiful concept).

Exercise your agency in whatever ways you have it, for example:

  • Where you consume (buy local, shop small businesses, buy USA, buy from a public benefit corporation or a Certified B Corp, a certified women-owned business, a Black-owned business, an employee-owned business, a BIPOC entrepreneur, a company whose values align with yours)
  • Where you choose to work (perhaps the same list as consumption) and how you use your voice and influence, individually or collectively, in your professional realm
  • Where you save (a member bank of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values, a credit union, a community bank, a CD or community note from a Community Development Financial Institution or organization like Calvert Impact Capital and CNote)
  • Who you invest with (a financial advisor, investment advisor, wealth or estate planner who understands impact investing and can facilitate investments that align with your values)
  • What you invest in (public markets through sustainable mutual funds and ETFs; accredited investor qualified hedge funds, private equity, and other private transactions; crowdfunded or accelerator-supported small business investments; employee ownership)
  • Where you invest (for global, national, regional, hyper-local benefit)
  • When you need your investments to pay off (investing your “extra”, your charitable money, your capital markets easily-diversified money, your “need it today and just in case” versus your “will need it in 10/20/30 years (patient)” money; your pocket money versus institutional money; your spending money versus your savings versus your retirement/long-term reserve money)


As you can see, there are lots of ways in which you have agency and lots of different ways to apply it. Every drop in the millions of buckets of need is important. Join us on October 10th to learn more about how to do more! General registration tickets for the Impact Investing Symposium are available.

Register here

[1] From https://andsimple.co/insights/women-in-impact-investing/.