With support from Citi Foundation, Women’s World Banking hosts women leaders from across South and Central Asia

MUMBAI – Women’s World Banking hosts the 2013 Women in Leadership Program in Mumbai, India this week. With Citi Foundation support, the five-day program aims to improve professional development among talented women microfinance leaders.

In order to serve low-income clients well, financial institutions must have strong leaders who can take risks, challenge conventions, and understand their clients’ needs. Since 2006, 230 women representing 97 microfinance institutions in 53 countries have completed the Women in Leadership program, which provides opportunities for women to analyze their leadership style and build a personal development plan. Past participants share stories of personal revelations and transformations as well as significant outcomes for their institutions, including promotions, better portfolios, increased staff, and more branch openings.

“We are thrilled to gather these inspirational women in Mumbai,” said Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking. “Leadership plays an irreplaceable role in driving change, the kind of change needed to bring women into the formal financial sector. This program offers women not only the opportunity to strengthen leadership skills but to navigate growth and change in their institutions to meet the needs of their clients.”

Despite the microfinance industry’s growth in South and Central Asia in recent years, women continue to be underrepresented in management. According to the Mix Market, women account for only 11 percent of managers in microfinance institutions in South Asia, far below the average for many regions (ranging from 25 percent in Sub Saharan Africa to 46 percent in East Asia), and a slightly higher percentage of managers in Central Asia at 37 percent. The Women in Leadership program seeks to address this underrepresentation by ensuring that women are equipped with skills necessary to advance their leadership.

The Mumbai program welcomes 22 leaders representing 12 microfinance institutions from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, and Mongolia. The agenda includes a moderated discussion with Samit Ghosh, Founder and CEO of Ujjivan Financial Services; Pramit Jhaveri, CEO of Citi India; and Chanda Kochhar, Managing Director and CEO of ICICI Bank; as well as a panel discussion called “Investing in Women” featuring Dr. Deepali Pant Joshi, Executive Director of Reserve Bank of India; Sarah McPhee, CEO of SPP; and Muge Yuzuak, Managing Director and Country Head of Cards and Personal Loans, Citi India.

Women’s World Banking is a network of 39 global microfinance institutions united in the firm commitment to serving women as clients, innovators and leaders. Strong leadership is essential for ensuring that innovative products, tailored specifically for low-income women, are sustainable for institutions.

“We’re pleased to support Women’s World Banking’s efforts to develop the next generation of women leaders within the microfinance industry,” said Pamela Flaherty, President and CEO of Citi Foundation, which aims to increase financial inclusion and economic progress for low-income communities. “Through professional and leadership development, institutions as well as the broader field benefit from talented leaders who create products and service delivery to better meet financial needs of their clients.”

The Women in Leadership Program continues in Latin America in 2014, furthering the effort to support strong women leaders who better serve low-income communities around the world. Women’s World Banking will also host Building Women-Focused Finance: Middle East & North Africa Conference in Amman, Jordan on November 19-20, bringing together the global network of 39 financial institutions from 28 countries with other microfinance practitioners, investors, donors, and regulators working in the Middle East and North Africa.

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. Click here for more information on the Center and the Women in Leadership Program

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. Click here for additional information about Citi Foundation