Carol Schwartz AM
Carol is an accomplished business and philanthropic leader, and an esteemed commentator on gender equality, women’s leadership and social enterprise. She is a Director of the Reserve Bank of Australia, a Non-Executive Director of Stockland and the Bank of Melbourne, as well as the founding Chair of Our Community. Carol is also a co-founder of the Australian Women Donors Network, Women’s Leadership Institute Australia and Scale Investors. Together with her husband, she established the Trawalla Foundation, an impact investing pioneer that, in addition to its grants, makes investments in social enterprises, not for profit organisations and programs demonstrating innovation and promoting women into leadership positions. Carol is also an Ambassador for the Australian Advisory Board on Impact Investing.
Do you see a unique role for the finance sector and investors to improve gender equality and drive social impact that benefits women and men alike?
There is a role for all corporates in all industries to create an environment where men and women share power and decision-making equally. Investors can influence decisions made by corporates by re-directing their investment choices to those organisations which reflect their priorities. So for example, if a corporation has no women on its board or in senior management roles, an investor may choose not to invest in them. A corporation would have to be very arrogant (or stupid) to ignore this.
You co-founded the Australian Woman’s Donors Network and Scale Investors. Can you tell us a little about these two organisations and why you saw the need for them?
The Australian Women Donors Network, of which I was deputy chair, was founded by Jill Reichstein and Eve Mahlab. It is an organisation totally focused on educating the philanthropic community on investing with a gender lens i.e. asking the question “will this philanthropic investment benefit women and girls to the same extent as men and boys”. Very powerful!
The Scale Angel investor network was set up by myself, Susan Oliver, Annette Kimmitt and Laura McKenzie. Our focus is to have a majority of women as investors, investing in women led companies. We are based on the U.S model “Golden Seeds”. This has been a very exciting and successful endeavor both commercially and in the context of social impact – encouraging women as both investors and entrepreneurs.
The Trawalla Foundation applies a gender filter to all of its impact investments. What does this look like and what are some investments you’ve made as a result?
The Trawalla Foundation applies a “values overlay” to all our investing. One of our core values is not to invest in companies that have less than 25% women on their board. This can mean that from time to time, companies that have satisfied that criterion at some stage, fall off if the number of women on the board decreases. We believe that high performing companies have gender diverse boards and we only want to invest in high performing companies!
How do your Foundation’s impact investments work alongside and compliment your grant-making activity?
We made the decision a long time ago that we wanted to invest the corpus of our foundation to have impact. To that extent, we look to invest in social entrepreneurs running innovative enterprises that offer both a commercially acceptable return as well as having an impact socially that we consider significant.
What kind of opportunities do you see for the corporate sector in Australia to harness impact investing, either through raising capital, making investments or through improving their own social and environmental impact?
There’s a whole range of opportunities for corporate Australia to invest with impact. We haven’t even touched the sides yet which is somewhat exciting when one thinks of all the possibilities.