Letter from Inez: January 2024

Tuesday 30th January 2024

In This Issue
Spotlight On: 2024—Focus on WMSMEs

Inez’s Letter

The New Year has ushered in a strong sense that the Alliance is beginning to reap the rewards of a steadfast focus on building and measuring momentum among our growing base of members towards gender equity. 

This sense has only deepened as I’ve pored over the individual benchmarking reports that we’ve just sent to each of our member organizations that submitted data to the Female Economy Analytics Survey last year. The reports, which evaluate how well each institution is doing across several gender equality metrics compared with regional peers and global averages, gave a hugely gratifying glimpse into what the world can be if we reach gender equity. 

Among our many of member organizations, women make up half of all retail customers and half of workers and, in some cases, half of the board of directors. Average products per customer is also equal or, in some cases greater, for women than it is for men and deposits made by women customers are also very strong. 

The biggest gender gap to persist is the proportion of business lending to women owned/led SMEs, reflecting both demand and supply side problems – a challenge we remain determined to tackle.

We-Fi Code roll-out

One way we’ll do this is by leading a global peer learning agenda this year for We-Fi (the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, part of the World Bank) to support the roll-out of the pioneering WE Finance Code across 20-plus countries.  Launched in November 2023, the global initiative is designed to increase funding for women-led micro, small and medium enterprises (WMSMEs), and builds on the success of the UK’s Investing in Women Code anchored by our member NatWest in 2019. 

While, at its core, the WE Finance Code aims to mobilize capital for WMSMEs, this is the tip of the iceberg beneath which lies a host of initiatives to support women to start, grow, scale and exit their businesses at the same rate as men.  

We were thrilled that the first formal adoption of the code was announced at our flagship Annual Summit in November when our host nation, the Dominican Republic, became the inaugural signatory, strongly supported by Alliance member, Banco BHD. We look forward to supporting a raft of new co-signers over the coming months. 

In a complementary move, we were also very pleased to see our member ABN AMRO lead the launch of Code V, the Dutch We Finance Code, bringing together a large number of ecosystem players to improve financing to WMSMEs in the Netherlands.

Pace picks up on Summit 2024 

Planning is well underway for this year’s Annual Summit, planned for 4-5 June in London, hosted by Alliance member HSBC. (Mark your calendar and register today!)

Holding our flagship event in London enables us to tap into one of the most developed entrepreneurial ecosystems in the world. Our agenda will see us go deep into funding women business owners at different stages of their entrepreneurial journey – from what it takes to build networks of angel investors to back start-ups; to practical strategies to enable more funding and venture capital to back high-growth female founders; to debt finance from banks and fintechs and tweaks that work particularly well for women. We’ll also explore business support that’s hitting the mark for women entrepreneurs, such as incubators, networks and one-stop-shop hubs for information, training and other tailored services. 

Nurturing know-how and networks 

Among a number of exciting improvements to our suite of learning opportunities for members, we are proud to have launched this month our on-demand Women’s Market Workforce Training.  As a ‘train the trainer’ program, it’s designed to upskill members in training their own staff in the design and delivery of women’s market programs, and offers a range of tools and templates which they can use to develop their own training.  

We’ve also launched version 2.0 of our Business Case Tool, a brilliant aid for financial services providers – members and non-members – to quantify and benchmark performance against the women’s market opportunity. 

You can learn more about our suite of refreshed learning opportunities for the year and how to access trainings by visiting our peer learning page.

Member spotlight

Our membership continued to grow in the past year, bringing our base to 100 organizations, including a budding cohort of top tier microfinance providers focused on the female economy. 

This month we welcome Microfund for Women (MFW) to the Alliance, Jordan’s first and largest microfinance provider with a focus on women entrepreneurs. We interview Lama Zawati, who shares MFW’s approach to supporting Jordanian women and how it complements the work of Bank Al Etihad, our bank member in Jordan. 

We acknowledge that none of the Alliance’s work would be possible without the extraordinary generosity of our members and strategic partners. Together, we look forward to a wonderful 2024.

In community,

Inez Murray Newsletter Signature