Changing the Demographics of Investments

Recent developments in international aid, education and business development are creating significantly positive outcomes for disadvantage women in less economically developed countries and regions. During the last few years in particular, large-scale human rights campaigns and commitments to do more, including: The Millennium Development GoalPromote Gender Equality and Empower Women; Girl Up; and the US government’s initiative, “Let Girls Learn” have dramatically helped to bolster attention on this issue and increase investments in opportunities for women.

Root Capital is one such investor that has thrown its cap into this arena in a big way, and is the focus of this week’s Spotlight on Social Enterprise from the Case Foundation and, in partnership with ImpactAlpha. This nonprofit is proving the business case for gender equity by capitalizing on loans to farmers associations and agricultural businesses in Africa and Latin America—that empower and promote women in roles traditionally held only by men.

Root Capital directs its investments according to its “gender scorecard,” which uses eight different metrics to measure a borrower’s gender inclusiveness. This organization is also doubling down on returns, both through improved female representation and empowerment in the farming cooperates where they invest and through improved loan repayment rates and more innovation. This nonprofit impact investor values the potential for sizable financial returns in untapped industries and markets that are designed to empower women.

The loans made by Root Capital in farming co-ops and associations are effectively empowering women to take greater ownership over their work and earned income, and allowing them to take over work traditionally assigned to men. However, social and cultural barriers continue to hold these women back, and therefore Root Capital is increasing investments in education programs. The goal here is to ultimately increase female representation in tangential work, including accounting, agrodealing and field inspecting.

The kind of barriers that are supported by tradition can be very difficult to break down or mitigate. One woman, who is making the case for greater gender parity in small farming is Odalis Noeme Guerrero, featured in this week’s Entrepreneur case study. After convincing her father to break tradition and give her a plot of the family’s least productive land, she earned a degree in agronomics and put it to good use first on her slice of land and then eventually on the entire family farm. Guerrero’s agronomics degree helped her family’s coffee farm increase production by approximately 900 percent.

For more on how Root Capital is changing the demographic of agricultural associations and co-ops to empower more women through nontraditional roles, to the betterment of crop yields and investment prospects, see the full case study on