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Embracing Giving Tuesday and Changing the Face of Finance

Having just celebrated Thanksgiving, a holiday we cherish for the custom and encouragement to both reflect on and to share all we are grateful for, we at Nia are enjoying leftovers today and choosing to #OptOutside. We love the opportunity to connect with nature rather than shopping on Black Friday. Do join us out for a hike in Oakland’s beautiful Jaaquin Miller park if you are free!

Today we are also excited to announce our plans for Giving Tuesday 2017 and to encourage our community to join us in this day of generosity. Giving Tuesday was founded in 2012 on the heels of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In response to two days focused on consumption and spending, Giving Tuesday reminds us of the importance thinking of others, and provides a platform to encourage the donation of time, resources and talents to address humanitarian causes.

Last year, we began our giving Tuesday practice highlighting and honoring 5 local Bay Area not for profit organizations that are all working to transform our financial system through various methods including fostering corporate responsibility and harnessing the power of business to create a more just and sustainable world. (We wrote about those change-making organizations in our Money Doula Blog.) This year we mark Giving Tuesday by celebrating five organizations that are working with and along-side us to change the face of finance, building more inclusive and diverse leadership within our economy.

We all know our financial system is not operating optimally, in a way that works for everyone. Large amounts of capital flow in limited ways and in limited directions, concentrated among a few, rather than reaching those entrepreneurs, businesses and areas of the country that would benefit most from capital infusions. Part of our strategy at Nia to contribute to the building of a more just and sustainable economy is to focus on increasing both diversity and inclusion within the financial sector. We know that diversity can be a catalyst for innovation and that to solve our world’s largest problems we will need everyone at the table, contributing to the solutions.

From eliminating the pay gap to the gender leadership gap, we have work to do. Fewer than 7 percent of CEOs at Fortune 1000 companies (America’s largest companies) are women according to a recent study by DiscoverOrg. Of the almost 10,000 C-level executives DiscoverOrg surveyed, just 18 percent were women. Only 6.7 percent of all chairs of the board, 7.2 percent of chief operating officers and 8.8 percent of chief financial officers were women. And the numbers for women of color are much lower. This leadership gap is not limited to Fortune 1000 companies. According to a recent American Association of University Women study, women remain “underrepresented at all levels of leadership” in the United States, from the realms of politics to education.

Within the financial sector, fewer than 16 percent of financial advisers are female, and less than a quarter of Certified Financial Planners are women — amounts that have barely changed in a decade, according to Suzanne Siracuse, publisher of InvestmentNews.

In an effort to change these statistics, the organizations we chose this year are all women-led and are all contributing to our goals of reducing the gender disparities that hurt us all, and to changing the face of finance.

1. RSF Women’s Capital Collaboration This innovative fund is providing capital to women across the finance spectrum---financing female entrepreneurs where they need it most—be it not for profit, or for profit social ventures. This new endeavor, launched earlier this year by RSF Social Finance, supports the diverse needs of women-led social enterprises with both growth capital, business support and a community of allies. The Women’s Collaborative is the first source of holistic, integrated capital to support women-led organizations that serve and empower women and girls. Integrated capital includes financial resources such as loans, loan guarantees, investments and grants, as well as non-financial resources such as advisors, mentors and access to networks.

2. Sponsors for Educational Opportunity SEO Scholars is an eight-year academic program that prepares low-income public high school students for admission to the nation’s most competitive colleges with a 90% college graduation rate. At Nia we know that education is a powerful way to break the cycle of poverty that entraps many people of color, ultimately keeping them from many opportunities, including from our country’s leadership tables. With rigorous out-of-school-time academic support and advising, The SEO Scholars program helps underserved public school students attend and excel at America’s top colleges and universities despite their economic circumstances. SEO scholars is essentially building a pipeline of educational and financial success which has not existed for many, while at the same time building a pipeline of well qualified leaders. Because our economic future depends on ensuring that students from all walks of life get the education they need to make a substantial contribution to our society, we are proud to support the SEO Scholars programs. Thank you to Kesha Cash for the introduction to this game-changing organization!

3. The Runway Project—Our hats off to Jessica Norwood and Rani Kruger for their visionary plan to close the gap on start up funding for women and people of color entrepreneurs who do not have access to friends and family round. Their leadership and strategic action will pay dividends. The Runway Project aims to bridge the gap between the average household income of African Americans and the money typically needed by entrepreneurs to successfully start a business. These powerful women, with the support of some awesome men) are creating solutions that help entrepreneurs take off

4. Gender Smart provides data-driven approaches to bring gender parity to the workforce. This fabulous team applies the principle that "you get the behavior you measure" to create aspirational business models that harness the full potential of all employees. Sara and her team have set bold goals to be a national force for change by partnering with conscious companies to elevate gender equality to a business imperative. The Gender Smart Certification (GSC) is the first gold standard for gender parity in the U.S. workplace. As a national benchmarking tool, the GSC recognizes and rewards companies whose practices and processes support gender equality. Companies that are Gender Smart Certified recognize the value of gender balance both for their employees and for their own growth. This shift in perspective on gender inclusivity as a business imperative will have lasting impact on women at all levels of their careers, providing equal opportunities for women to create and pursue their own definitions of success. Gender Smart has set bold goals to be a national force for change, and supporters leave a legacy for future generations of women.

Gender Smart goes far beyond the well-documented pay gap to incorporate the spectrum of mechanics and cultural practices that foster gender inequality, from unconscious bias in business meetings to unequal opportunities for mentoring to slanted performance evaluations. By identifying the business practices proven to promote gender equality, Gender Smart takes the guess work out of attracting and retaining the gender-balanced, talented workforce critical to an organization’s success. We at Nia are proud to serve as advisors for this important initiative.

5. The GLIMR Project (Looking through a Gender Lens at Market Risks) is intended to broaden what matters in economic decisions by changing who has power and influence in the work of reinventing the economy. The Criterion team takes a broad systemic perspective is bringing together select fund managers and advisors to collectively think through strategies that improve gender lens investing in public equities in order to build more robust practices for gender lens investing. The GLIMR project intends to identify gender data and incorporate the that data into investor analysis to see the impact of changing the way financial decisions are weighted.

We at Nia are grateful for our non-profit partners working toward a more equitable financial system. As we move forward into the holiday season, we at Nia Impact Advisors hope to inspire others to look at their communities and support those organizations doing vital work toward making the world a better place. Here is to giving thanks to the many people and organizations on the ground who are working hard to achieve that for all of us. May we together #ChangeTheFaceOfFinance.

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