Women’s World Banking and the Citi Foundation recognize Jordan’s largest microfinance institution as champions for gender diversity

NEW YORK – Women’s World Banking today announced the 2013 recipient of the Excellence in Leadership Award, funded by the Citi Foundation. Microfund for Women (MFW), based in Jordan, is honored for building an institution that ensures that women are well-represented in the organization’s workforce, leadership and governance while maintaining its commitment to serve every ambitious woman.

The Excellence in Leadership Award annually recognizes a microfinance institution committed to developing women’s leadership and gender diversity in order to prove that investing in women makes business sense. This award is part of Women’s World Banking’s broader efforts to influence the development of principled and diverse leadership in financial institutions serving low-income women.

“The Excellence in Leadership Award gives us the opportunity to celebrate Microfund for Women’s extraordinary track record of attracting and retaining a significant proportion of female employees in one of the most highly challenging markets in the world,” said Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking. “We are thrilled to recognize their innovation and commitment to developing working women as leaders within their organization and serving low-income women clients in unprecedented numbers.”

MFW works within a challenging context of rising fundamentalism in the region and the threat of destabilization due to an influx of Syrian refugees into Jordan. However, with a creative recruitment strategy and committed leadership, MFW maintains a strong presence of women at all organizational levels. MFW’s staff and board are comprised of 73 percent women, far exceeding the national level of 14 percent (among formal sector employers). MFW is also the only microfinance institution in Jordan led by women managers and the only one actively targeting women as clients and staff. Women now make up 97 percent of their more than 95,000 clients.

“We’re very proud to have won this award. It is a testament to the hard work of the 400 members of our team. People do believe that when they come into this institution they have a chance to grow and to become leaders,” said Muna Sukhtian, MFW’s General Manager. “We are leading the market and we have been for a while. This always puts an extra challenge on us to really be creative about what’s coming next. We need to continuously understand our clients so we can tailor whatever new products that we’re giving to them.”

In a market where women make up 50 percent of college graduates but only a small percentage of the formal labor force, MFW created a work environment different from any other in Jordan to support working women. For example, a shortened work week from Jordan’s standard 48 hours to 40 hours, medical insurance, life insurance, cancer insurance, and a wellness program all are part of MFW’s benefits. During recruitment, a “gender knowledge” test is administered for all field positions, Human Resources regularly monitors gender ratios, and families are invited to accompany women candidates to branches for interviews.

“We are honored to recognize Microfund for Women’s achievements with the Excellence in Leadership Award,” said Brandee McHale, Chief Operating Officer of the Citi Foundation, which aims to increase financial inclusion and economic progress for low-income communities. “MFW’s commitment to gender diversity and serving women clients is a model for expanding financial inclusion in the region.”

MFW will host Women’s World Banking’s global network of 39 financial institutions from 28 countries for Building Women-Focused Finance: Middle, East & North Africa Conference in their home city of Amman, Jordan on November 19-20, 2013. They will be recognized as the 2013 Excellence in Leadership Award recipient before an audience of more than 200 other microfinance practitioners, investors, donors, and regulators.

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About Women’s World Banking

Women’s World Banking is the global non-profit devoted to giving more low-income women access to the financial tools and resources essential to their security and prosperity. For more than 35 years we have worked with financial institutions to show them the benefit of investing in women as clients, and as leaders. We equip these institutions to meet women’s needs through authoritative market research, leadership training, sustainable financial products and consumer education. Headquartered in New York, Women’s World Banking works with 39 institutions in 28 countries with a reach of 14 million women to create access to finance on a greater scale that ever before.

About Citi Foundation

The Citi Foundation is committed to the economic empowerment and financial inclusion of individuals and families, particularly those in need, in the communities where we work so that they can improve their standard of living. Globally, the Citi Foundation targets its strategic giving to priority focus areas: Microfinance, Enterprise Development, Youth Education and Livelihoods, and Financial Capability and Asset Building. The Citi Foundation works with its partners in Microfinance and Enterprise Development to support environmental programs and innovations. Additional information can be found at www.citifoundation.com.