This piece was published by the Women’s Environmental Network in May, 2018. Please visit the group’s website to read more about its work.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Women are better investors than men, earning higher returns over at least the past decade.
- For every $1 of small-business loans received by women, $23 are received by men.
- Only 17 U.S. states require that high school students take a class in financial literacy…and California is not one of them.
If you’re like me, the notion of investing or spending your hard-earned money in a way that also makes the world a better place is a wonderful concept. And maybe, like me, you can find the subject daunting. Not many of us have the time or know-how to fully vet the options for voting with our dollars, so I was inspired recently to hear a trio of trailblazing women assure a diverse audience that we all have the power to make a difference right now.
Megan Morrice, Yuliya Tarasava and Kristin Hull brought their message of financial empowerment to WEN’s ‘Voting With Your Dollar’ event on May 9th, hosted at the the San Francisco Department of the Environment. The lively panel discussion was moderated by WEN Events Chair Aubrey Beltran, and WEN member Lucy Ta presented an overview of impact investing.
While impact investing can be traced to biblical times, its modern roots are found in such 1960’s turmoil as the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. Today the concept of sustainable, responsible and impact investing (SRI) is defined by consideration of environmental, social and corporate governance standards.
The event addressed a wide range of how attendees might view investment, from ‘What? I’m supposed to be saving?!?’ to portfolio holders who wish to direct their investments more consciously, and the evening’s speakers delivered for everyone.
All three panelists began their careers in the traditional finance industry, but changed their trajectories when they became disillusioned with an environment not aligned with their values and passions. Megan Morrice is now VP of Client and Partnership Development at HIP (Human Impact + Profit) Investor, which creates social impact ratings for investments that are used by large companies. It also advises on such products as fossil-free portfolios and 401(k)s, and is evaluating a more modest entry point for smaller investors. Megan also founded ValuesAdvisor, a ‘matchmaking’ practice that pairs thoughtful investors with like-minded advisors.
Yuliya Tarasava co-founded her company, CNote, with the goal of redesigning finance. The founders were insistent on creating a product with no investment minimum, despite being told by the experts that it would never work. The investing is done through government-approved Certified Development Financial Institutions, which are mandated to provide financial services to underserved markets and populations.
Other defining characteristics of CNote are the generous (relative to a standard bank account) 2.5% return on investment, and quarterly liquidity – meaning investors can remove their money from the fund on a quarterly basis. Yuliya described this policy as ‘protecting you against you’, and she’s passionate about teaching women that having money gives them control over their lives. She reminded the attendees about the power we hold around everyday financial choices and warned against inertia, which can derail the best intentions. Her message: Don’t put off claiming your financial power until tomorrow – get on it today!
Kristen Hull is the founder of three investment entities – Nia Impact Advisors, Nia Global Solutions and Nia Community (‘Nia’ is the Swahili word for purpose). She began working for her family’s traditional investment firm in her teens, eventually becoming a teacher. The Nia organizations were created to empower her passion for social justice and environmental sustainability. The overall well-being of women is a driving force of her financial and activist platforms, and she writes The Money Doula blog on topics relevant to her principles.
Kristen noted that talking about money is taboo in our culture, especially for women. But she feels it’s vital, especially in the context of the #metoo movement, to upend that dynamic and get money into the discussion so that positive systems change can be created. She also challenged attendees to ask ourselves if how we invest and spend ‘makes the world we want to see’ and if it doesn’t, to change our approach.
One idea the panel encouraged is for friends to form a money or investment circle, where knowledge can be shared in a responsible way. It offers a safe place to learn from others’ experience and grow an informed awareness of not only how we ‘do’ personal finance, but also whether our money is being applied in ways aligned with our values.
For me the term ‘disruptor’ perfectly describes the principled work being done by Megan, Yuliya and Kristin. Since the event I’ve been thinking about how I can become more proactive in leveraging my own financial voice and vote. I hope my sisters, and brothers, will join me.