Joy began her career as a teacher in the New York City Public Schools. She is a founding principal of Good Capital and president and founder of Criterion Institute, which serves as a think tank for shaping markets to create social and environmental good. In 2011, she was ranked by Fast Company’s as among the 100 Most Creative People in Business.
I saw a video of you online that called you a Social Innovation Rockstar. How’s it feel to be a rockstar?
Someone once called me a founding mother. That was weirder. In the end, I truly believe it is not about the individual hero but the sustained work of the collective. And, we need visible models and stories that let us see what is possible, so I’m happy to play the role.
You’ve got 15+ years at the intersection of business and social change—how’s the traffic pattern changed over that time?
There has been a myth that progress would happen faster if we brought business to social change…a sense we could innovate our way to a new future. Reveling in that myth, we failed to deal with questions of power, and of structural inequities around race, class, and gender. Time after time, the complexity of culture and the realities of what it takes to do social change kick us in the ass.
You operate on a belief that if we made up the rules of finance, markets and systems, then we can break them and make them better. Tell us about it.
As a historian, I can point to the moments when people in rooms made this stuff up. I find that comforting. There isn’t some universal law ruling our economy. Since we made them up, it means that we can create other rules.
Wow. When I Google “gender lens investing,” your organization comes up Numero Uno on the organic search results. How did that happen—did you invent the term?
Why yes, we did. Our intent 8 years ago was to create an umbrella for the places where gender and finance connect. Many, many fields preceded this work—social screens on corporate practices around gender, access to capital for women entrepreneurs, focus on getting women on corporate boards, efforts to create products and services that would improve the lives of women. We sought to reframe the conversation to connect efforts in a broader conversation at the intersection of gender and finance.
btw… we define gender lens investing as incorporating a gender analysis into a financial analysis to get to better outcomes. We define it as a process, rather than a goal, because there are an almost unlimited set of goals that we could be working to achieve. Gender lens investing is about how you use the tool of finance to achieve those goals. (Oh and you can read the big report about it here)
You’re looking to reframe the discussion on gender investing from counting to valuing. What’s the “why” behind this?
Counting is often found in the metrics section, which is in “Appendix C”—how many women served, how many women employed. Valuing is the analysis that happens at the front end of an investment. It is the core of what finance does, determine the relative value of something given expectations of risk and return, over time.
From an ROI standpoint, what’s your best financial argument for investing in women?
It’s back to the analysis. Gender (defined as the relations between the genders) is one of the most powerful dynamics on the planet.
We focus more on incorporating a gender analysis into finance (over prioritizing women and investing in them). Sometimes that shifts toward investing in women, sometimes that shifts an understanding of the material risks in an industry. For example, how the hospitality industry has exposure to gender-based violence or how gendered behavior patterns would affect the timing of a climate investment.
Can you point us to any recent significant financial successes in the gender-investing world?
I’m less interested in the stand out successes and more in the day-to-day work of incorporating gender analysis into financial analysis. We have a process problem, an imagination problem, not really a return problem. This is, simply, smarter finance. The question is how we get to enough data and solid analysis for this to become the norm across industries.
We do a lot of work helping companies shape their values—yours are pretty novel: grace, hospitality, and invitation. Can you tell us how they inform and guide your work?
I’m one of those leaders that is lucky to have known our values from the beginning, 15 years ago. They show up every day. Shape our strategy. Even mess with tactics.
Folks sometimes show up here and say, “Uh…how hard could it be to run an event?” and our core value is the power of invitation. Who thought you could go that deep on invitation? For example, as we track invites to an event we track who we invited who didn’t come because, well, we invited them.
Another one…Hospitality is about welcoming the stranger knowing the stranger will change you. That means any time we engage folks, which is pretty much all the time, we get to experience all the ways they change us. People who like convincing folks of stuff get all confused here.
On grace…We trust grace to surprise us. That works. Control is expensive, anyway.
If you could change one thing in the world right now, what would it be?
I would love it if social change leaders not only understood finance but also believed in their own ability use financial systems to advance the social change we seek.
If that was true, our mission would be done. But then I’d be sad because the process of getting there is pretty darn fun.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I want to be one of the people who write everyday and translate all my pithy thoughts into public facing stuff but life seems to get in the way, every day.
What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
Toast. But that has no hidden meaning.
What scares you?
Umbrellas, post offices, driving on cliffs.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was little, I wanted to be an architect, but I think mostly my friend and I wanted to design a house that had a soft ice cream machine built into it. Later, my sense of possibility expanded.
What are you reading right now?
Emails. I love the conversations I have with folks and the possibilities that emerge from staying connected.
I always like a good 4/4 beat. After the election, Bruce Springsteen is particularly comforting.
I loved Luke Cage. Devoured that.
Rock, paper, or scissors?
Rock. (You should have a spoiler alert on the question cause if everyone knows, doesn’t that foul up my choices next time?)
How should people connect with you on social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blog address)?
You can follow Criterion on Twitter at or our hashtags: #genderlensinv, #churcheconbeing, #shapingmkts, #structurelabs.