A Call For Financial Feminism

For International Women’s Day, let's embrace a new way to support women: Invest in them.

By Lindsey Taylor Wood

In 2016, just after the election, I found myself faced with realities I could no longer ignore. After ten plus years of working in the women’s rights space, when I really stepped back and looked at how far we had come, it was disheartening.

You could pick any metric by which to measure success—access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, the wage gap, paid leave policies, representation of women in front of and behind the camera. The metrics were interchangeable and the point clear: we had flatlined.

That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been impact. It means, systemically, we weren’t actually moving the needle forward. Historically, our primary and almost exclusive way of investing in women has been through philanthropy.

Yet after a year of asking activists, allies, and wealth holders, “WHY?” that was, there was one notable trend: When men have wealth, they are invited to invest and amass more wealth (companies, stocks, real estate). When women have wealth, they are invited to give their money away. (Join the board of this non-profit, chair a gala, write a check to a cause you believe in.)

Think about the implications of that.

Put differently: let’s imagine a world that works for all of us. Really. Take a moment.

Now, how do we get there? How do we actually make that a reality?

Philanthropy has been and will continue to be a necessary force for good, but it cannot and should not be the primary tool we call on when designing for a more equitable future. I would argue, investing is.

Money is power. And it should be working for — not against — us. That means we must continue investing in companies that share our values, goals, and hoped for outcomes.

This is why The Helm makes it easy to invest in women.

But I should take a moment to clarify something that is a fundamental tenet of The Helm: investing does not just mean a direct investment into a company or a commitment to a venture fund.

Much like the saying, we vote with our ballots, our feet, and our wallets, there are dozens of moments every day when you can choose if and how to invest in women.

Now we make it easy for you.

This Spring, The Helm will launch a contextual e-commerce platform. A one-stop-shop for investing in women, we will bring you the latest female-founded products and companies, tell you why they matter and connect you with ways to support them directly—whether by reading their stories, buying their products, engaging their services, or spreading the word about what they do.

Our content is essential and actionable. Everything you read will provide you with the opportunity to BUY, SHARE or ACT. (And, to be clear, this platform will amplify the work of female entrepreneurs both inside and outside of our portfolio.)

By building a contextual commerce platform we are able to further our mission and our core principle of building community around, increasing capital toward, and providing credibility and exposure for leading female founders. It is our mission statement coming to life, in digital; how we cast our net, find our audience, and bring people in.

We make it easy to invest in women.

In the content we’ve rolled out pre-launch, we’ve already seen a tremendous response.

Since September, we’ve grown newsletter subscribers to over 70K and our email acquisition rate on the site is 4x higher than the industry average. We’ve increased our social followers by 215%, and our average monthly site visits 864% — with no sign of slowing down.

Despite the tremendous gains we’ve made and the statistics I shared, these are not the things I want you to leave with today. What I want you to leave with is WHY. WHY does all of this matter.

Consider this:

  • Most biomedical and clinical research has been based on the assumption that the male can serve as representative of the species. The result? At the close of the previous decade, 8 out of 10 prescription drugs were withdrawn from the U.S. market because they cause statistically greater health risks for women.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that women comprise over 75% of the workforce in healthcare and social assistance YET medical equipment and healthcare products are designed by men for men — which is why female surgeons often have to hold surgical scissors with two hands instead of one.
  • Have you ever stopped to wonder why it is you are always so cold? Its because the algorithms that dictate temperature regulation in office buildings were designed in the 1960s for a 154-pound male.

These are three out of millions of examples about the constraints that arise when bias is at play — but it also serves as a reminder of what’s possible.

When women put their capital to work we see change.

It was women investing in women that resulted in a record-breaking 127 women being sworn into the Congress in January making it the most diverse class ever. It was women investing in women that resulted in Sprout being sold for a cool one billion after an uphill battle with the FDA to approve a drug that would treat female sexual dysfunction. It was women investing in women that brought us here today and provided us with the capital and the platform to invest in ten game-changing companies and to promote nearly 1,000 products and services by women-led and run companies. Companies, I might add, that work for all of us.

Women currently control $14 trillion in capital yet only 2% of all venture capital goes to female founders. Can you imagine what we could achieve if even 1% of that $14 trillion was deployed in the service of women-led innovation, products, and services?

The time is now to change the way we invest in equality. We need to honor the women who have the courage to lead. We need to invest in them, make them visible, and provide them with the support they require to accomplish their goals.

The world isn’t built for all of us. The Helm invests in things that are.

We make it easy to invest in women. And we hope you’ll join us.

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