This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #EmbracingEquity. In this post, we the Good Finance team explores how our work embraces equity. 

What is the difference between equity and equality?

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #EmbracingEquity. The words equity and equality are often used interchangeably, but what do they actually mean? If you’re a Good Finance user, it’s possible you think of equity as a financial product rather than anything to do with gender or International Women’s Day. 

The word equity is also an important one to understand in the context of diversity and inclusion. 

So what is the difference between equality and equity?

Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities.

Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome. You can read more about the differences between equality and equity here. 

So, how we we embrace equity at Good Finance? We'll be exploring this topic in this blog post. 


Embracing Equity on Investment Committees 

The world of finance and investment is embodied by the white, pale, male and stale caricature, especially when it comes to decision making. There is still too much truth behind the words. 

Being someone who now works in this world (and provides a contrast to the  stereotype, the initial 20 years of my career was in retail fashion), I can vouch that barriers towards working more equitably include over academisation (long reports), the use of unfamiliar words (jargon) and complicated calculations (financial models). Even for the most confident individual, it can make you feel outsmarted and out of your depth. 

So how do we redress the balance and help up and along those who can contribute in a different, but nevertheless, valuable way? How do we enable a diversity of perspective to be represented in decision making? Enter Investment Committees of the Future - our new e-learning programme where the goal is to reinforce that entrepreneurial, lived experience is just as important as that which is learned or rooted in theory and academia.

“If you were to do an analysis of who sits on the boards of social investment groups - I’d say it’s pretty light on people who actually do the job [of running a social enterprise] and who have successfully done the job.” -  June O'Sullivan, London early years foundation.

Investment Committees of the Future is designed to lift the lid, bust the myths and provide encouragement to tackle this challenge.The content was informed  by the experience of many like me who doubted they could play this role. Having empathy and understanding of the impact you want to see when investment capital is deployed is an essential not optional component of good investment committee (IC) decision making and reserving that privilege for only those who have a financial or investment background undermines the value that lived experience brings. 

The only way to help bring about equity is to provide the support of peers who can honestly answer questions, offer insight and encouragement. To provide access to learning in a safe space in particular to materials and resources that are usually inaccessible (for confidential or commercial reasons), and to provide open and transparent access to opportunities to become part of an IC. 

“Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the first session of the course. I am already working my way through the online course! It feels great to have insight into a world that I thought was pretty exclusive and I am excited to see where this leads." - User Testimonial 

Embracing Equity by Addressing Imbalance

It comes as no surprise (given the lack of representation in the finance sector)  that there is a knock-on effect when it comes to the people and communities who face the biggest challenges in accessing social investment.

The Addressing Imbalance programme launched in 2020 during a time when the pandemic really brought to the forefront the stark inequity that still exists; in particular when it comes to accessing finance and support for leaders from racialised communities and/or disabled leaders.

“over the last 10 years only 0.24% of venture capital was invested into Black-led organisations.   When a gender lens was applied to this data, the decimal point shifted. Black-women founders received only 0.02% of capital." - Patricia Hamzahee, Integriti Capital.

Addressing Imbalance is a user-led programme; we listen and collaborate with partners and our wider community when developing tools, resources and content to support leaders who have experienced marginalisation in making an informed decision around social investment. Recently we launched the Addressing Imbalance Community event series as a direct response to a request from the audience at Addressing Imbalance Live.

At our inaugural event it was inspiring to hear from an all-women panel of speakers that included Ishita Ranjan, Senior Project Manager at Good Finance and Founder of Spark Insights, Dilys Winterkorn, Project Director at Pathway Fund and Caroline Phansi, Chief Executive of Contento Social Homes – a social enterprise supporting women fleeing domestic violence. Hearing from these 3 women was inspiring and a great example of just some of the powerful and determined women across the sector who are making real inroads into addressing inequity.

Programmes such as Addressing Imbalance have an important role to play – with our platforms at Good Finance and Big Society Capital we have a duty to collaborate, make space and amplify a diverse range of voices to really shift the dial on inequity in the social investment space. 

Embracing Equity by listening to user voice

User voice is bringing the voice, perspectives and experiences of people and communities closer to the source of decision-making power. This piece of work was informed and influenced by the research and report the Young Foundation produced called 'Nothing About Us, Without Us' which was to better understand the lived experience of people and communities who were seen as 'users' or beneficiaries of social investment and the challenges they face.

User voice allows us to inform, educate and positively influence key decision-makers on how to effectively serve the needs of a particular community or demographic. In the case for gender, a fund may be created to support the needs of women and their ‘Lived experienced insights has been found to support better human development, service and intervention outcomes’ (Nothing About Us without Us Report) - this is because the user-voice approach is focused on deeply understanding and empathising with the experiences of people you are serving which allows for a more effective result in curating a product or service that is accurate and fit for purpose. 

We are currently developing a new e-learning programme which will be piloted later this year. The online programme will share user voice frameworks and best practices across the social impact sector,  provide key tools and resources, and support individuals to embed methods of listening to user-voice into our day-to-day working. 

If we are responsible for shaping the social investment space and ultimately help impact and change the lives of people - then why not do this in a way that is informed and led by the very people and communities we want to support? 

Something we’ve learned from experience at Good Finance is that listening to our users improves the quality and delivery of our work, whilst building meaningful relationships with different people, harboring trust and being in a position to deliver what users actually want. We’re excited to share these learnings with the wider sector as part of out drive to embrace equity. 

Let's keep embracing equity

The lack of lived experience on Investment Committees as well as the lack of funding reaching minoritised leaders and organisations is not something we wish to tolerate. Our programmes, Investment Committees of the Future and Addressing Imbalance are both designed to foster equitable decision making and distribution of funding. Our hope is that our user voice programme will further enhance our ability to really understand what people and communities need and want, and design equitable solutions.

The proof of course, will be in the pudding. We're ready to listen, learn and measure our progress to make sure we are in fact embracing equity. 

Our hope on this International Women’s Day is that together we'll build a more equitable future.