Celebrating International Women’s Day
By Leela Vosko
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we assess global progress towards women’s financial inclusion and economic empowerment. Given MicroVest’s mission to provide access to responsible financial capital for underserved microentrepreneurs and small businesses, we want to take this opportunity to shine light on some of these realities and highlight examples of female entrepreneurship that gives us hope for the future.
The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a setback to pre-pandemic trends favoring women’s financial inclusion. 740 million women worldwide work in the informal economy, and during the first month of the pandemic, their income fell 60%.1 Furthermore, the UN estimated that 47 million women and girls were pushed into extreme poverty since the pandemic started,2 partly due to female over-representation in sectors of the economy that have been hardest hit, namely service-oriented, consumer-facing businesses.
Women, particularly those in emerging markets, are often forced into entrepreneurship due to structural constraints that keep them from equal participation in the labor market of the formal economy. Yet, they continue to face difficulties with access to financing. Female-owned businesses comprised 23% of MSMEs worldwide, yet they accounted for 32% of the approximate $5 trillion MSME funding gap.3 Furthermore, women continue to be overrepresented among the world’s unbanked overall, accounting for more than half of the world’s 1.7 billion unbanked adults (56%).4
Given MicroVest’s mission of expanding access to finance at the bottom of the pyramid, we are constantly looking to support responsible microfinance and SME Financial Institutions whose lending activities will meaningfully increase women’s access to finance. We believe that factoring in a gender smart approach to portfolio underwriting ultimately shows up in key traditional measures of financial success like revenue growth and profitability. By investing in these institutions, MicroVest is seeking to responsibly support women who are providing valuable goods and services to their communities. When these women succeed, they have the capacity to generate employment for others and have greater resources to invest in the education, health and overall well-being of their own families.
As of June 30, 2021, more than five million of the 10.1 million microentrepreneurs and small businesses served by our portfolio companies were women.5 We are also proud that our portfolio is consistent with the G7 Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) 2X Challenge: Financing for Women criteria for Leadership and Consumption, with a portfolio share of female representation on senior management teams at above 20% and products or services benefiting women.
We would like to share some examples of inspiring women who have turned access to financial capital into thriving businesses:
Oeurn Samon (Cambodia)
Ms. Samon owns and operates a longan farm and trading business in Pailin province, Cambodia. Learn about how she overcame early life challenges to build a successful trading business with self-taught skills in negotiations, distribution, wholesale partnerships, and logistics. Read more>
Gabriela Moran (Panama)
Ms. Moran owns three hectares of land in Peñas Blancas, Capira where she grows and cultivates a variety of crops like cilantro, mustard, chives, parsley, and coffee. To offset productivity losses from drought, she invested in an irrigation system to help maintain her crops during adverse weather events. Read more>
Grace Kelly Dlamini (South Africa)
Ms. Dlamini is a taxipreneur who owns and operates a four-vehicle taxi fleet in South Africa. While the taxi industry in South Africa continues to be disproportionately male-dominated, Ms. Dlamini has found ways to make her own mark as a woman in the industry. Read more>
3SME Finance Forum, MSME Finance Gap https://www.smefinanceforum.org/data-sites/msme-finance-gap
4World Bank Global Findex (2017) https://globalfindex.worldbank.org/sites/globalfindex/files/chapters/2017%20Findex%20full%20report_chapter2.pdf
5The impact metrics listed here are portfolio level statistics across two of MicroVest’s flagship funds and are based on self-reported data by MicroVest’s portfolio companies as of 6/30/2021.
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