FIP 74: Gender Smart Investing with Suzanne Biegel

On this episode we continue our podcast takeover series with Tamsin Jones of The Boardroom Africa. Her guest today is Suzanne Biegel of Catalyst at Large. Suzanne has more than 25 years’ of experience as an entrepreneur, investor, board member, and hands-on operational manager. Her consulting, speaking, facilitation, writing and field scanning is in gender lens investing, globally and spans work with a variety of institutional actors.

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • About what it means to practice smart investing for gender impact. Suzanne provides tactics and strategies to help us improve.
  • The importance of having a culture that is built to last. Suzanne has learned through experience that there is strength in diversity.
  • If you don’t have a management team that reflects who you are representing, you might be missing something. Inherent value in having different perspectives.
  • Suzanne tells us about the benefits of analyzing your business through a gender lens.
  • If you are designing products for women and girls, wouldn’t it make sense to have them involved in the design process?
  • Pay attention to ‘hidden influencers’ along the way. These might not be your customers, entrepreneurs, or end clients, but could be the controllers, HR staff or accountants in the company. Are they benefiting from the resources and support? Who is in your supply chain?
  • Is your company paying attention to women’s needs? Transportation? Child Care? Is there a safe way for women to get to and from work?
  • From a customer standpoint, how are you speaking to your women customers? Are you being respectful? Are you hitting stereotypes? Start by asking questions.
  • The data shows that once you get product market fit right for female customers, they will be more loyal. Once you secure a female customer, they tend to be more communicative about the product to others and in essence become an ambassador. They are more likely to recommend products and more likely to buy more.
  • Be purposeful in where you use your energy. There are a lot of people on the same journey as you. Find partners and work collaboratively where possible.
  • Start with a problem that you are really trying to resolve and go towards it relentlessly.
  • There are endless events and resources worldwide. People are realizing there is power in connectivity! Visit a few of Suzanne’s resources below…

Links to Resources:

Resources for Investors:


Connect with Suzanne:

  • @womeneffect
  • @zanne2
  • #genderlensinv

FIP 73: Men Who Champion Women with Isaac Fokuo

Today we begin our new podcast takeover series with Tamsin Jones of The Boardroom Africa. Her first guest is Isaac Fokuo of Botho Emerging Markets Group who shares his thoughts on how men can be champions for women.

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • The tools and tactics for building gender diversity from a male perspective, which for Isaac derives from where he is from and his family history. For Isaac, the word “diversity” implies a push and a pull and that there is a dominant conversation, which was not the case in his household where is mom and aunts were both family and business leaders. Isaac notes that in his own life, he tends to gravitate toward female-owned businesses because they resonate with his values.
  • Isaac explains the parallels between racism in the United States and gender discrimination in Africa, notably the similar excuse when hiring of “there are no qualified candidates” that are people of color or women. Isaac clarifies that qualified candidates are there, companies or institutions just need to look harder and those that have made an effort to diversify have been able to do so. For African institutions, he thinks they just need to be very deliberate in their diversity efforts.
  • In terms of unconscious bias, Isaac does think it exists – which can be both positive and negative – that can be based on peoples’ personal and family experiences and we should all be careful to manage these blind spots.
  • Isaac struggles to answer the question of the value of gender diversity, as the value seems to be so self-evident. Any company that sales to women – whether it is a bank, a retail business, or an NGO – need to have women on their staff so they can better understand their client base. Having a diverse team is also impactful for innovation and ownership because it allows people to expand beyond the group and give a voice to other people.
  • Finally, Isaac recommends that men who are looking to help diversity their boards or companies should start by understanding what are the entrenched self-interests that prevents gender inclusivity, finding other ways to include people in decision-making, being an advocate for women, and encouraging women to be advocates for themselves. He also suggests that it may be easier to diversify the workforce and management team before the board, as an additional way to provide evidence of the positive results that can come from gender diversity.

Links to Resources:


FIP 68: The Boardroom Africa with Marcia Ashong

Marcia Ashong and Tamsin Jones joined forces to start The Boardroom Africa (TBrA) with the objective of accelerating the appointment of women to boards across Africa. According to TBrA, it might take another 60 years, at the current rate, for gender parity to be achieved if things are left to run their normal course. While there are many qualified women looking to sit on boards, existing systems have evolved to favour men. Through referrals and extensive search, TBrA has compiled a growing database of more than 300 highly qualified board-ready women from 40 countries with over 10 years’ experience each in their fields.

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • Importance of male allies that are willing to help boost women up. Marcia talks about how she found her mentors.
  • When you lose your safety net of people who can advocate for you – you are forced to fight for yourself. The barriers that affect women’s growth become clearer. Have you reached the ceiling in your industry?
  • Marcia has seen many female colleagues go through the same thing as her. She tells us what it feels like to be the only female in the room in almost all situations. How do you battle these extremely intimidating dynamics?
  • She tells us about the differences between men’s leadership and female leadership. Often women will adapt to their surroundings and try to mimic men’s leadership qualities. This can mean that women start to operate outside of themselves.
  • Are you surrounded by only male colleagues or like-minded people? Prepare to be less effective. Successful businesses need diverse opinions. Diversity leads to better decision-making and company growth.
  • Through all the research TheBoardroom Africa has done, they have discovered that the companies who had a quarter share of women on their boards performed 20% better in various margins. The argument isn’t about women being better or more qualified, the argument centres around diversity.
  • One woman on a board is not enough, you have to have at least a quarter share in order to see the value of that diversity.
  • Companies will have a majority consumer base consisting of women yet have no women on the marketing team. Not setting your business up for success!
  • The way the board operates dictates how the company runs. Can start change at the board level.
  • How does someone become “board ready?” You have reached a point in your career where you will be able to impart impactful knowledge to another organization. What does that mean? 10 years experience in specific industry? And more…
  • You don’t need board experience to be considered board ready. This is one of the major barriers for women!
  • Training to understand board dynamics. What does it mean to be a woman on a male dominated board?
  • How do you get more women on your board? First step is talking about it. You don’t have to be combative. Next step? Start to planning to fix it.
  • Are board meetings a check exercise instead of a place where you can engage and debate ideas?


Connect with Marcia:

Shloka Nath Finding Impact

FIP 54: Gender-lens Investing with Shloka Nath

This episode triggered a few ‘a-ha’ moments for me and it’s a topic I’m proud to cover on the show. Gender-lens investing is a growing trend in the impact sector and Shloka Nath has some valuable lessons to share from her experience setting up such a fund in India with her business partner Reena. Shloka works with one of the largest philanthropic organisations in India, she’s an active angel investor and has over a decade experience in print and and broadcast journalism.
On this episode you’ll learn:
  • Why Shloka and her business partner decided to setup a women’s impact fund that addressed the needs of women, what research she did and with who.
  • We find out what’s behind the name Sankhya Women’s Fund and the ancient Indian philosophy it refers to.
  • Why women make wonderful investors, especially for impact focused companies that require patient capital.
  • We elaborate on the meaning of gender lens investing more broadly, because it’s a growing trend in the investment space.
  • We discuss what sort of evidence is available that indicates improved performance of companies and investment portfolios that take a gender-positive approach.
  • We discuss what businesses can do to stand out more to gender lens investors, and how to ensure their company is a good fit for these kinds of funds.
  • We hear what barriers they faced with setting up their fund.
  • We hear what advice Shloka gives to women-impact businesses seeking capital for their business or investors wanting to deploy their capital in this way.
  • “Out of one lens see the participation, needs and realities of women and the other you see the  participation, needs and realities of men and your vision is optimum only when you have the combination of the two.”
Links to resources:
Connect with Shloka:
What was your favourite lesson from this episode? Let me know on Twitter by clicking here!
Vava Finding Impact Podcast

FIP 026: Disrupting the Coffee Industry with Vava Angwenyi

Vava is the entrepreneur behind Vava Coffee – a social enterprise here in Kenya which has the lives of 30,000 coffee farmers at heart. Having studied in the US, Canada and Europe, she drank alot of coffee – like many people in the west – and so began her journey of discovery that brought her home to Kenya. She’s been challenging the unsustainable coffee industry for nearly 10 years and with bucket loads of grit and determination, has started a movement in her company, Vava Coffee.

On this episode, we discuss:

  • The intention’s behind Vava Coffee, and what more it represents, which is alot more that just selling coffee.
  • The implications for choosing the path of a social entrepreneur, both positive and negative, as opposed to working for pure profit.
  • How Vava has seen the ease of setting up a business in Kenya has improved in the last few years.
  • Some of the challenges of working with government, and the tactics to employ.
  • The negative effects of being a successful woman entrepreneur in Kenya, and some of the prejudice she’s faced along the way.
  • Vava’s advice on disrupting any established industry.
  • The expectations of how long change at the grassroots level takes, and how patience is key.


Connect with Vava: