Get to Know Calvert Impact Capital Staff: Ruth Gao
April 28, 2021
Name: Ruth Gao
Title: Associate General Counsel
Tenure at Calvert Impact Capital: Nine Months
Places you’ve called home: New York, NY; Beijing, China; Hong Kong; Southampton, United Kingdom; Ann Arbor, MI; Jakarta, Indonesia
Languages: English, Mandarin Chinese
1. What do you do at Calvert Impact Capital?
While there’s no typical day for me, my work can be divided into several buckets. First, I support the Investments team in maintaining our portfolio with legal documentation and negotiation for new investments and ongoing matters for existing investments. I also support our Investor Relations team with securities registration and other compliance requirements for selling and maintaining the Community Investment Note®. Additionally, I work on many special projects that require researching and thinking of viable legal structures for new products. Recently, our team has been working with small business COVID-19 recovery funds. One of the major hurdles was in structuring the right type of vehicles to best support CDFIs in quickly deploying capital to small businesses. Finally, I support our organization by working on internal compliance projects, which include updating employee trainings and reviewing lease contracts and other relevant legal documents.
I enjoy working on the legal side of impact investing because I get to participate in all aspects of our investment process while also supporting the functioning of Calvert Impact Capital as a nonprofit. This way, I can actually see the implications of my work through both our borrowers and our own organization.
2. What excites you most about your work at Calvert Impact Capital?
I love how dynamic and truly impactful our work is. Calvert Impact Capital seeks to democratize impact investing, so we’ve created this space in the market where ordinary people can invest. As part of the legal team, we are challenged to test and refine Calvert Impact Capital’s work and products within the existing legal framework to enable access to markets in new and more efficient ways. I get to be creative with my work and can play a role in creating real impact.
I also appreciate how nimble Calvert Impact Capital is as an organization. In 2020, society continued to grapple with major systemic issues -- a global pandemic, structural racism and discrimination, climate change, and historic levels of income and wealth disparity. Calvert Impact Capital didn’t sit back and watch. As an organization, we’re always ready to roll up our sleeves and deploy resources to address issues in society. It’s exciting to see everyone on the team using their respective areas of expertise to make change happen, which is also what makes us so dynamic.
3. How did you get to Calvert Impact Capital, and more specifically, into impact investing?
Since high school, I’ve always wanted to pursue an impactful career, but my road to impact investing was winding. My vision was to empower social entrepreneurs by making capital more accessible. As I was studying business in undergrad, the terms “impact investing,” “sustainability,” and “bottom of the pyramid” began to surface, and I found my values aligning with these investment concepts.
After spending a year in Jakarta working for a microfinance institution, I went to law school with the goal to understand how law can be used to enable change and impact. For the first couple of years out of law school, I worked on various investment transactions in private equity and venture capital, mergers and acquisitions, and initial public offerings. Then, I turned my focus to the raising and managing of private equity funds. My ultimate goal was to gain a specific set of skills to contribute to the field of impact investing. I view my years working at a law firm as foundation setting while I learned more about impact investing on my own time.
I was fortunate to have an opportunity to be a fellow at NYU’s Grunin Center for Law and Social Entrepreneurship where I supported the International Transactions Clinic, which taught students corporate transactional skills with an impact focus. While at NYU, I first became acquainted with Calvert Impact Capital when a student group worked on the recently published report, “Gender Lens Investing: Legal Perspectives.” My professor at NYU encouraged me to apply for the Associate General Counsel position at Calvert Impact Capital when it opened up. It was meant to be! While I didn't supervise the gender lens project directly at NYU, I got to work on the report once I joined Calvert Impact Capital.
Impact investing is a space that is rapidly growing, and as a result, needs more lawyers. The industry needs securities lawyers, financing lawyers, transactional lawyers, and many others. In my experience, the legal community in impact investing is a supportive and encouraging group with a large network of peers who are eager to share their experiences.
4. If you could have a dinner party with any three guests, dead or alive, who would you invite?
First, I would invite Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As a woman and a lawyer, she was a trailblazer in every respect and played a huge role in shaping the course of our country and rights. I would then invite Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose vision, impact, and faith inspire me every day. Finally, I’d invite C.S. Lewis, who I believe is one of the greatest writers and thinkers of our time, whose writing has greatly influenced and guided my own faith. I’d love to discuss life, faith, the arts, society, and humanity with these three.
5. Do you have any reading or listening recommendations? (Books, podcasts, articles, etc.)
This past summer, I loved reading Dr. Ibram X. Kendi's book, How to be an Anti-Racist. Dr. Kendi breaks down the functioning of racism in our society and not just how to negate it, but how we can work towards correcting injustice.
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is also a wonderful read—it made me both laugh and cry! It’s a deeply immersive reading experience, transporting readers to streets and alleyways of India, and the adventure gets even better as the book progresses.
In terms of podcasts, I enjoy and learn a lot from “The President's Inbox,” which is produced by the Council on Foreign Affairs. Each week, the podcast focuses on one specific US foreign policy issue. They oftentimes host experts on different sides of the issue to come together and debate – presenting a balanced view on current issues.
Finally, I recommend “The Bugle,” which is political satire podcast: irreverent and current! Comedians comment on current events in a fun, lighthearted way. The original hosts were John Oliver and Andy Saltzman, but after John Oliver left, it has been revamped by Andy Saltzman, who now invites other comedians to join the show.
6. If you had to describe Calvert Impact Capital in one word or term, what would it be?