Linda Pei – In Memoriam (1944 - 2007)
It is with profound sadness that we note the passing of Linda Pei, founder of the Women's Equity Fund, who succumbed to cancer on December 27, 2007. It is also with profound affection and admiration that we celebrate Linda's all too brief but consequential life.
Linda had a vision: that ordinary investors could advance the social and economic status of women by investing in companies that promote gender equality in the workplace. With that vision, she launched the Women's Equity Fund in 1993.
Linda was also one of the first people to understand and articulate the financial case for gender equality:
"My conviction," she wrote, "is that when companies treat women equitably, those companies are likely to exhibit superior long term profitability. Why is this the case? Because companies that embrace diversity have a much wider range of talent to choose from."
It is from such simple insights that great ideas are born, and in the Women's Equity Fund, Linda launched a great one. The Fund, she decided, would seek to invest in companies that promote women to top executive and director positions; that provide career development and training programs for women; that promote work/life balance; present positive images of women in their advertising, etc. Over time, Linda believed, the wisdom of investing in such progressive companies would become apparent, and I think time has proven her right.
In Linda's view, you couldn't really talk about sustainability, or corporate social responsibility, or socially responsible investing, unless women's equality and empowerment were at the heart of the conversation. She understood that gender inequality is perhaps the greatest impediment to sustainable development around the world, and she set out to do something about it.
That she did.
Along the way, I was lucky enough to get to know Linda in the last years of her life. When I approached her a little over two years ago, as CEO of Pax World, to explore a partnership between our two firms, I did so because I believed in her idea – I believed in the Women's Equity Fund. I didn't know where it would lead, but upon meeting Linda, I knew that it would lead somewhere – and somewhere good. We became friends, and I only wish we could have been friends for a longer time.
We have included below a brief excerpt from a piece Linda wrote about her childhood experiences in China, and how they shaped her vision for the Women's Equity Fund. One cannot help but be moved – by her experiences and by her vision.
The Women's Equity Fund is now part of the Pax World family, so we have both a unique opportunity and a unique obligation to honor Linda's legacy and promote her vision. That we intend to do – in her memory, and on behalf of the women and young girls everywhere whose lives she sought to touch.
An excerpt from "Investing in Women is Good for Business"
By Linda Pei
"I feel passionately about women's issues dating back to the personal indignity I experienced as a child. I was born in China in my Dad's home village. When my mother gave birth to me, her third daughter, the relatives openly mocked her and said, 'what good are you when you can't even give birth to a son?'
"I didn't hear that story until I was seven or eight years old. It made me feel that I had brought some shame upon my mother. Later, after my younger brother was born, my father was assigned to go to Japan to settle what the Japanese owed to China after World War II. While he was there the communists took over mainland China. My mother was allowed to leave and join her husband in Japan. As she was trying to escape China with four little kids, her relatives persuaded her to leave one child behind. I was the one chosen to be left behind because I was 'the third daughter.' At the last minute my mother changed her mind and I was thrown on board the last plane out of Shanghai.
"These insults made me believe that girls were dispensable. I think I have spent my life wanting to show my parents that I hope they didn't regret not leaving me behind. I don't want any woman to be left behind again."