NEW YORK – Women’s World Banking is welcoming 14 senior leaders from financial institutions around the world to New York this week, kicking off a one-year Leadership and Diversity for Innovation Program.

The three-day forum is the first phase of a signature program by Women’s World Banking, implemented in partnership with Credit Suisse with additional support from the Cisco Foundation, for senior leaders and a high-potential female employee from each of their institutions.

All two-person teams from participating institutions will identify and solve a real-time challenge facing their institution related to successfully serving low-income women. Projects will cover a range of business challenges, including growing the business responsibly, creating inclusive and gender diverse work spaces, and using technology and alternative channels to reach women in the lowest income segment.

“We’re thrilled to begin our new program with senior leaders who are not only committing to better serving low-income women clients, but also to developing emerging women leaders within their organizations,” said Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking.

This curriculum builds on more than a decade of Women’s World Banking’s leadership training programs. In the last five years, the organization has trained 473 participants from 150 financial institutions in 65 countries. The program pairing senior leaders with high-performing female employees was developed in response to feedback from previous women trainees who found that, upon returning to their institutions, they lacked support from senior leaders to realize their full leadership potential and make significant institutional changes.

“This week’s rich sessions will prepare these executives to play a critical role as sponsors, going beyond traditional mentorship. The C-suite executives will be encouraged to support the women leaders in developing their personal leadership vision and bringing their own voices to the decision-making table. The organization wins, too, by fostering new and different perspectives to drive innovation,” said Iskenderian.

The senior leaders – from a diverse range of markets, including Kenya, Pakistan, Malawi and the Philippines – will receive classroom lectures with faculty from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and remote executive coaching services from Creative Metier. The curriculum will focus on driving institutional change through coaching and talent management, critical decision-making, achieving gender diversity, and serving the women’s market through customer-driven product development.

In September, the high-potential female employees will participate in a week-long training program in India to focus on individual development and the senior leaders will gather again in India for a three-day roundtable. These in-person program sessions will be complemented by remote coaching and webinars to help participants reach their goals.

Program participant Roshaneh Zafar, CEO of Kashf Foundation in Pakistan, shared her thoughts before the forum, “While I know this experience will enrich my own leadership skills, cascading this to the next tier is most exciting; I’m looking forward to working with my training partner. Her individual potential as well as the contribution she can make to our organization is truly exciting. I look forward to beginning this journey with her in support of Kashf’s continued mission to grow and serve women clients through the most appropriate and innovative products and services.”

More than one billion women globally do not have access to financial services. At the same time, women are the fastest-growing, most dynamic market segment in the world. If financial institutions are to reach these potential clients, they need to design innovative financial products, such as savings and insurance that meet the needs of women.

“Every financial institution needs to deliver for an increasingly diverse client set,” said Pamela Thomas-Graham, Credit Suisse’s Chief Marketing and Talent Officer and head of the bank’s New Markets business, which seeks to build wealth among women, African-Americans and the LGBT community. “Credit Suisse published research last year on how companies with women in senior management positions are performing well in a number of critical financial metrics. For that reason and many others, we’re proud to partner with Women’s World Banking to offer leadership programs that foster gender diversity within institutions, and that help these institutions develop innovative approaches to inclusive finance.”

In addition to Kashf Foundation, participating organizations include: Kenya Women Microfinance Bank Limited and Equity Bank Limited in Kenya; NBS Bank Limited in Malawi; Banco de Ahorro y Crédito ADOPEM (Banco ADOPEM) in the Dominican Republic; Microfund for Women in Jordan; CARD Bank, Inc. in the Philippines; Ujjivan Financial Services Pvt Ltd. in India; Uganda Finance Trust Bank Ltd. MDI; Lead Foundation in Egypt; Fundación Mundo Mujer in Colombia; AMK Microfinance Institution Plc. in Cambodia; and Pro Mujer, Inc. serving Bolivia, Nicaragua, Peru, Mexico and Argentina.

To learn more about Women’s World Banking and the Leadership and Diversity for Innovation program, visit www.womensworldbanking.org/leadership.