40 Years of Building Financial Parity and Economic Resilience for Women


Mary Ellen Iskenderian

President & CEO

For Women’s World Banking, 2019 was a year of significant milestones, the most remarkable of which was the celebration of our 40th anniversary advancing women’s financial inclusion. Yet even as we celebrated, we had to acknowledge that women around the world continue to face significant disparities in their access to financial services. As we moved into 2020, these differences became even more evident as the Covid-19 pandemic disproportionately affected women in many ways. It has highlighted women’s lack of job security, savings, and insurance; it emphasized the barriers they face in accessing capital and healthcare; and it highlighted their vulnerability to increased gender violence. Women will continue to face the long-term consequences of this global crisis, with low-income women in emerging markets bearing the greatest burden.

This inequity has led us to redouble our efforts to make certain that women’s needs are met and their voices heard as the world grapples with the economic impact of the pandemic. We are expanding access to microinsurance to build women’s resilience and working closely with several governments to ensure that their Covid-19 response payments get into the hands of the people that need them most. Millions of bank accounts have been opened in the last few months to facilitate government-to-person (G2P) benefits payments and we are working to encourage women’s awareness and usage of these accounts so that they remain included in the formal financial system post-crisis. We are also increasing our engagement with the 51 banks, insurance companies, and microfinance institutions in our global network to help them stay focused on delivering the support that their women clients need.

Much of the work we began in 2019 has enabled us to respond effectively to the pandemic’s unique challenges. To name just a few examples: We launched our Leadership and Diversity for Regulators program, which has allowed us to build a global community of regulators committed to women’s financial inclusion as a driver of their nations’ resilience. Our continued ground-breaking work with Bank of Baroda, India’s second largest bank, paid significant dividends as the Bank pivoted to crisis response and deepened its commitment to its low-income women customers through a strengthened agent banking network. And through our first-ever Fintech Challenge, in partnership with the Monetary Authority of Singapore, we shined a light on innovative companies and digital business models that will be critical to the delivery of financial services in the post-Covid world. All of this work was made possible through our collaboration with an extraordinary group of partners and funders; we are deeply grateful for their continued support, which has given us the flexibility to adapt to the changes around us.

We are proud of all the accomplishments presented in the 2019 Annual Report that follows. But today’s global crisis has made it clear that much remains to be done to realize our founders’ vision of ensuring that women have access to finance as an essential tool for them to be equal partners, not just in recovery, but in building back a more equal world.

Mary Ellen Iskenderian
President and CEO

“Financial inclusion has advanced and we’ve made huge progress, but there is still a gender gap. Technology is going to go a huge way in closing that gap, but just putting a phone or an app in a woman’s hand is not the sole solution. And it’s important to be thinking of the broader ecosystem; financial inclusion is just not about products, it’s not just about financial service providers, there has to be a healthy regulatory environment for everyone to move in concert.

–Mary Ellen Iskenderian

during an interview at Money20/20 Asia with
Linda Saye, Head of Content RiseUP

Women’s World Banking
2019 Accomplishments


One billion women around the world do not have access to financial services. Women’s World Banking is striving to change that.

For the past 40 years, Women’s World Banking has been powering economies by investing in women globally.

Common barriers to women’s financial inclusion exist around the world. Our priority markets of India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Egypt, Mexico, and Nigeria reflect the work needed to empower women in each one.

Across 32 countries, 47 financial partner institutions use our market insight, product design expertise, and leadership training.

In 2019, our partner institutions served 93 million women and our Network members reached 64 million women.

During 2019, Women’s World Banking added 16 new and diverse partners to our Network.

82% of executive participants from our global leadership programs credit the program for progress made on strategic business initiatives.


$50 million USD are under management of Women’s World Banking Asset Management.

*In April 2020, Women’s World Banking raised an additional $75 million in a second fund.


Our fund reaches seven million plus clients, of which 63% are female.

By 2027, Women’s World Banking aims to reach 100 million women.