Bridging the Gap: The Rise of Gender Lens Investing in Southeast Asia

The landscape of gender lens investing in Southeast Asia is rapidly evolving, with Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines at the forefront of this transformation.
In the quest for gender equality and women’s economic empowerment, Southeast Asia is at a pivotal juncture. According to UN Women, an additional USD 360 billion per year is required globally to achieve these goals by 2030. A critical component in addressing this funding gap is Gender Lens Investing (GLI), a concept gaining traction in the region.


Southeast Asia’s Gender Lens Investing Landscape

Investing in Women, an Australian Government initiative, recently provided an insightful snapshot of impact investing and gender lens investing in Southeast Asia. The region’s landscape, as detailed in a factsheet based on data from 2020-22, reveals a significant shift in investment strategies focusing on gender equality.

Indonesia: A Hub of Activity

Indonesia boasts the most active impact investing market in terms of deal number, representing one-fifth of the total impact capital in Southeast Asia from 2020-22. Leading in gender lens investing deals with 45 in total, Indonesia experienced a substantial increase in capital, jumping from USD 9.6 million in 2017-19 to USD 662.6 million in 2020-22. Investments mainly focused on the financial services and information and communication technology (ICT) sectors.

The Philippines: A Growing Market

While the Philippines holds the second-largest impact investing market by the number of deals, it lags in capital deployed behind Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore. However, the country saw 35 explicit gender lens investments between 2020-22, with a notable 60% of these investments targeting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) at ticket sizes less than USD 0.05 million. This trend suggests a growing recognition of the potential in smaller businesses for initial investments.

Vietnam: Leading the Charge

Vietnam has emerged as a frontrunner in the impact investing arena in Southeast Asia, with over 60% growth in investment value from 2020-22 compared to 2017-19. Remarkably, the capital deployed with a gender lens skyrocketed by 24 times, soaring from USD 42.2 million between 2017-19 to USD 1.04 billion in the latter period. Unlike Indonesia and the Philippines, Vietnam’s 28 GLI deals primarily invested in enterprises promoting gender equity in the workplace.
Key questions loom: Will SMEs and local investors continue to dominate the gender lens investment market in the Philippines? Will Vietnam and Indonesia maintain their leading positions in GLI in Southeast Asia?

Lead image of Concept of Gender Inequality by Tetyana Kulchytska  via Canva.