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Fixing Systems, Financing Solutions

Strategic Dialogue



  • Charity Wallace began this session on gender-lens investment by citing a McKinsey study reporting that the elimination of gender disparities in employment, wages, and credit would add an estimated $12 to 28 trillion to the world’s GDP by 2025. She said that her work with the DFC 2X Initiative has shown her that these disparities are especially profound in developing nations, and that the benefits of supporting women’s access to education, home loans, financial services, paid work, and healthcare are multiplicative. The DFC has catalyzed more than $3 billion worldwide to almost a hundred projects or businesses that are women-owned, women-led, women-supporting, or offer products and services that benefit women, in order to enhance women’s economic empowerment, build stronger families and communities, and create more stable and prosperous countries.

“Worldwide, roughly 700 million fewer women than men have paid employment. Women are three times more likely than men to undertake unpaid work, and this has significantly increased during COVID […] Data shows that investing in projects that are women-owned, women-led, women-supporting, or offer a product/service that benefits women results in stronger families and communities,” Charity Wallace

  • Mary Ellen Iskenderian described the mission of nonprofit Women’s World Banking since its founding more than 40 years ago as providing female low-income entrepreneurs in developing countries with access to financial products and services such as savings products, microinsurance, housing and home-improvement loans, individual lending, and rural finance. To do so, the nonprofit deploys both philanthropic and return-seeking capital. She debated whether financial inclusion should be an additional Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), and concluded that while it may not be an SDG itself, financial inclusion and reformed financial systems are a means to achieving all other SDGs. 
  • C.D. Glin leads the U.S. African Development Foundation, an independent government agency that provides operational assistance, grant funding, direct investment, and market connections to early-stage agriculture, energy, and youth-led enterprises in Sub-Saharan Africa. He noted that 70% of workers along the agricultural value chain are women. He, much like Wallace, believes that investment in female agricultural workers has a “multiplier effect” on economic welfare and food security. For this reason, close to 70% of the Foundation’s investment portfolio is directed toward African women in agriculture. He revealed a new partnership that the Foundation has initiated with the White House and State Department called Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), which aims to economically empower women in the developing world. The AWE equips its female graduates with fundamental business acumen in creating business plans and raising capital. It also provides women with an inclusive learning community, mentoring opportunities, and the networks necessary to create sustainable businesses and enterprises. Glin expressed optimism that investment and value creation in just one African region could lead to prosperity in other regions of the continent, via regional trade and commerce connections. 

“Africa is the third-largest continent, with 1.2 billion people. 600 million wake up in the dark and go to sleep in the dark, because there’s no access to power and energy,” C.D. Glin

  • Carmen Correa represents Pro Mujer, a micro-lending platform that offers access to finance, health, and educational services to women in Nicaragua, Argentina, Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, and Guatemala. Pro Mujer has recently partnered with Canadian boutique asset management firm Deetken Impact for $35 million of investment in Pro Mujer’s Mexican operations.
  • Thelma Ekiyor’s impact investing platform SME.NG counters elitist, exclusive financial systems and provides African entrepreneurs greater access to financing and capacity. The platform adopts a blended financing model, leveraging private capital, public sector investments, and philanthropic giving. She held that the financial exclusion of African women will keep them in the grips of generational poverty. SME.NG has instituted a Women’s Investment Fund to scale women-owned and -managed businesses in high-growth industries.
  • Ruth Shaber examined the link between women’s reproductive health and their lifelong economic empowerment. In 2014, she created Tara Health Foundation, which invests capital in nonprofits and startups working in U.S. reproductive health and workplace equity.

Key takeaways & next steps:

  • The leadership of financial institutions needs to be diversified by promoting women to senior management and board positions in order to integrate female perspectives in critical portfolio management decisions.
  • Financial instruments must be made available to women entrepreneurs in developing nations and their business knowledge and skills must be advanced for effective utilization of those instruments.
  • We need to increase women’s access to family planning for greater female workforce participation and economic empowerment.


Session Speakers