Powering Economies by Investing in Women

December 10, 2018

 A strategic approach to investing in women can power economies.  It was only fitting that after a day of exciting presentations, debates and discussions, Women’s World Banking closed out the Making Finance Work for Women Summit with five amazing women leaders who shared the three elements we need to have the most significant impact on women’s lives and greater economic growth: the right stakeholders, data, and policies.

Women’s World Banking’s recent Making Finance Work for Women Summit brought together leaders from the public and private sectors, investors, and researchers to discuss, debate and create the solutions to drive women’s financial inclusion globally. Throughout the day, issues highlighted included financing women in the supply chain, gender lens investing, the role of technology, and the latest research to drive action. The end of the day, however, brought together esteemed representatives from the private, public and donor communities to identify the critical topics that need to be addressed to power economies effectively. The panelists determined that those topics included bringing together the right stakeholders; collecting and using the right data; and designing the right policies so that women aren’t left behind.

The Right Stakeholders

 “We live in an interdependent environment, but we are not all at the table,” said Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, Permanent Representative of Ireland at the United Nations. To ensure women’s needs are met, we must have the right players collaborating, including the private and public sectors as well as civil society.

Collecting and Using Data

ext 2 The importance of gender-disaggregated data has been a pillar of the discussion on how to reach more women with financial services. Companies and the executives that lead them want to see the business case for serving women but feel they don’t have the data to make strategic decisions.  However, the power of data could transform business and policy practices. An example highlighted on the panel was when the United Kingdom published information on the gender pay gap in the country, which led to “an incredible change of behavior. This transparency on women’s compensation created a lot of action and showed how data can create beneficial conditions for change,” shared Lydie Hudson, Chief Operating Officer, Global Markets at Credit Suisse.

Data isn’t just used for the business case for companies. We also need to look at data to measure women’s impact on the overall economy. “We need to reimagine an economy where women are taken seriously, and then work to build towards that. We need a feminist economy and work together to build it with feminist economists,” said Marina Durano, Program Officer at Open Society Foundations.

Designing Inclusive Policies

The data can give us some answers, but effective policies to address these answers need to be developed. Ceyla Pazarbasioglu, Vice President for Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions at the World Bank Group shared an example from Africa where one central bank saw that between 4:00 AM and 5:00 AM there was a huge surge in transactions. It was about to close processing during that time as it was assumed to be fraud. However, the Central Bank took the time to research this issue which showed that the surge in activity was a result of women traders who went to the market to sell their goods early in the morning before they had to take their children to school.  The Central Bank did not shut down the system and did not introduce unnecessary policies that would have unintended consequences for women’s businesses.

Amina Tirana, Senior Director for Governments and Partnerships at Visa Inc, reinforced the view that it is necessary to see the whole picture. “We want to enable businesses to thrive yet women-owned businesses have financing gaps. Policymakers say we need more lending to SMEs, but is this what is really needed? Women want security and increased income. But is a loan the way to achieve that? Many women want a job more than owning a business.” It is necessary to understand women’s needs more thoroughly  in order to design inclusive policies.

Taking the time to bring together all the key stakeholders, collecting and analyzing the data, and designing inclusive enabling environments are all key to ensuring we build a world where women thrive, business grow and economies are powered.