Are men obsolete?

Microfinance has us believe that women are better borrowers and they not only pay back their loans they invest their income in the education of their kids. The men in stark contrast are usually portrayed as worthless drunks that should not be trusted with a loan if their life depended on it. In addition they beat their wives and are absent as parents. Reliable studies seem to suggest we are better off without them both socially and economically.

Read more


Calvert Foundation is on a winning streak with women

WIN-WIN is a program of the Calvert foundation that enables investment in women. It launched in March 2012 and has recently surpassed $20 million in lending to organizations that empower women through health care, microfinance and education. What is more, Calvert foundation proves that anyone can be an investor. Win-Win is a retail impact investing product aimed at the US consumer market. Investments range from 50 USD to 2,5M.

In November Calvert plans to launch a new investment vehicle, aimed at women and clean energy in Emerging Markets. At Bridge the Gap CEO Jennifer Pryce will give a sneak preview of the new fund as well as share some of the valuable lessons learned from their first endeavor.

jenniferpryceJennifer Pryce has nearly 20 years of experience in finance and community development work and is the President and CEO of Calvert Foundation. Since arriving at Calvert Foundation in 2009, she has risen from the position of U.S. Portfolio Manager to Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, then Chief Strategy Officer and now President and CEO. The win-win program was created by the Strategic Initiatives team under her leadership.


The Gap is a bit like the hole in the ozone layer

meltingice_versusthegapThe total funding gap for women owned businesses is estimated around 290-360 billion USD according to the G20 and IFC (2011). To illustrate, that is nearly half the entire GDP of the Netherlands. What is more, the credit gap is not about to go away. In fact, unless we act today, it will only get bigger… Not unlike the gap in the sky.

One reason is that women are the fastest rising group of entrepreneurs worldwide. Globally, there are approximately 187 million female entrepreneurs within 59 economies (GEM 2010). Eight to ten million formal SMEs in emerging markets are fully or partially owned by women, representing 31-38 percent of all SMEs according to IFC. In the United States alone female owned businesses have been growing at a rate of 1,5 times the national average (American Express 2013). And the global “birth rates” of female-owned enterprises are higher than those of male-owned ones according to OECD (2012).

Despite women’s increasing presence on the business stage, research has consistently shown that women-led businesses receive less funding than companies led by men. The IFC estimates that as many as 70% of women-owned SMEs in the formal sector in developing countries are unserved or underserved by financial institutions. In Kenya for instance, 48 percent of business owners are women, yet they receive only 7 percent of formal credit (2011).

Financial institutions and investors stepping up their efforts to serve women business owners can make the difference between an opportunity gained and one lost.

Exciting research by Goldman Sachs (2014) points out the enormous impact of closing the gap for women owned SMEs on economic development. The researchers find a strong relationship between SME credit and income per capita growth. According to the World Bank, SMEs are the biggest contributors to employment across countries, especially in developing countries.

Taking this as a starting point GS estimates that closing the credit gap for women-owned SMEs across the developing world as a whole could boost income per capita growth rates by over 1,1% on average. Depending on other factors some countries would benefit more. On the higher end are Vietnam and Brazil, increasing their per capita growth by 1,7%-1,85%. Naturally closing the gap will take time, nobody knows exactly how much. But hypothetically speaking, gradually increasing funding for female SME owners could mean Brazils per capita income would wind up 28% higher by 2030.

This means everyday our economies are leaking money because companies owned by women are not capitalized to their fullest. What is even worse is that human potential, talents and innovation capacity are being lost. Therefore, in the face of the current global environmental, social and financial challenges, we cannot afford not to invest in women. Let’s start now.

Join us on the 31st of October for the Bridge the Gap event.

Sign our declaration to Bridge the Gap


Further reading

Giving credit where it is due How closing the credit gap for women-owned SMEs can drive global growth February 2014

IFC to present Women Entrepreneurs Opportunity Facility

IFC and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women program recently launched a $600 million global facility that will increase access to finance to as many as 100,000 women entrepreneurs in emerging markets. The Women Entrepreneurs Opportunity Facility (WEOF) is the first of its kind to be dedicated exclusively to financing women-owned small and medium businesses in developing countries.

IFC will invest an initial $100 million and the Goldman Sachs Foundation will provide $32 million. IFC will manage the facility, which is expected to mobilize up to an additional $468 million from public and private investors. How is that for Bridging the Gap?

The facility is part of the World Bank’s overall strategy to promote gender equality and ensure the social and economic welfare of one-half of the world’s population. IFC, through its Banking on Women Program, is playing a catalyzing role to help women-owned businesses access capital and capacity building. Since its inception in 2010, the program has invested more than $800 million in more than 20 countries.

Patience-Photo160x160IFC will be represented at Bridge the Gap by Patience Marime Ball and Yakhara Sembene. Patience is Principal Investment Officer, who developed and closed the Fund. Patience initiated and is building IFC’s Banking on Women Program through which IFC structures and makes financial investments to women entrepreneurs via local financial institution intermediaries. Yakhara Sembene, an Investment Officer in the Financial Institutions Group, is responsible for Investor Relations for WEOF.


ABN-AMRO presents new research at Bridge the Gap

Women give more in philanthropy and they have different priorities, these are important conclusions of the research performed by Maastricht University and commissioned by ABN AMRO MeesPierson, the private bank of ABN-AMRO.

High Net Worth Women give 3,6% of their income away as compared to 3,2% of men. The research was performed among 750 ‘One Million plus’ customers of the bank. On average clients give 11000 Euro a year. Adding one plus one reveals that at a minimum 8,2 M in donations are involved in relation to more than 750 M in capital of which 280M is female owned (30-40% of respondents). In addition women have a different portfolio. They prioritize areas like health, nature, poverty reduction and culture and have a preference towards organizations supporting the position of women.

Diana van Maasdijk, head of philanthropy at ABN AMRO will be sharing these findings at Bridge the Gap during the closing panel. “For my clients it is interesting to combine philanthropic mission with asset management. Since women want to support other woman it follows that we as a bank are investigating the possibilities to add a gender-lens to our products.”

Read the full report (Dutch with English summary)


dianavanmaasdijkDiana van Maasdijk is head of Philantropy at ABN AMRO MeesPierson. Previously she was founder at the donor academie, head of development and communications at Mama Cash. She is the author of a handbook for philantropist ‘giving to good’ (Goed geven).

Vera Community supports Bridge the Gap

NicoletteBridge the Gap has a new supporter. VERA Community enables female entrepreneurs to get funding for the start or growth of their business, with a strong focus on crowdfunding and informal investing. Founder Nicolette Loonen has a background in the financial services and is founding mom of the WIFS association, a networking group for senior women in the Financial Services industry and member of the Supervisory Board of ABP pension fund. She will facilitate and co-organise a roundtable session at Bridge the Gap.

5 reasons to bank on women in Emerging Markets

A disproportionate share of weath creation will take place in emerging markets. A huge number of households will move from poverty into the middle class and beyond. Not only the general economy but also the ‘female economy’ is growing faster in emerging markets relative to developed markets. Women in emerging markets will increasingly become a global economic force to recon with, as employees, consumers and business owners. These are five reasons that explain why:

  1. Female consumers form a growth market larger than those of India and China combined. The number of educated women in developing countries and emerging markets is rising rapidly. In many of the BRIC countries for instance girl and boy enrollments of primary and secondary schools are almost equal. This development speeds up the increase in female labor participation and earnings.
  2. Consumer spending among women is boosted even more in emerging markets because of lifecycle changes: fertility rates are dropping, women’s overall health and life expectancy is significantly improving and they increasingly decide to have children later in live (Deloite, 2012).
  3. Women are one of the fastest rising populations of entrepreneurs worldwide. Eight to ten million formal SMEs in emerging markets are fully or partially owned by women, representing 31-38 percent of all SME’s (IFC, 2011). In Sub-Sahara the number of female entrepreneurs equals and even outpaces that of male counterparts (GEM women 2011).
  4. Female entrepreneurs within developing and emerging economies are more likely to see opportunities, have a lower fear of failure, and think more positively about entrepreneurship as a career choice as compared to women from developed economies. In developing economies, 19.9% of the women surveyed by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor said they were starting or running a new businesses; 9.7% said so in the emerging economies economies, compared to only 3.9% in developed economies (GEM women 2011).
  5. Women’s access to finance has increased, allthough it is still a barrier. The number of women reached by microfinance has grown exponentially from 10.3 million in 1999 to nearly 69 million in 2005, an increase of 520 percent. There is a growing recognition among mainstream commercial banks that the growth and start-up needs of business women go beyond micro-loans. Despite attention from the financial sector, the demand of women owned businesses in emerging markets is still far from being met (IFC, 2011).