IE University and UN Women in partnership for the empowerment of women for sustainable and inclusive economic growth in Latin America
In Latin America and Europe, investment in companies led by women remains unrepresentative, despite the fact that it is key to closing inequality gaps, according to the experts that participated in the first forum organized by IE University and UN Women.
Increasing efforts to improve gender-focused investment and facilitate wider and more inclusive access to finance for women and to promote their economic empowerment remains one of the major challenges facing our society. This was the main conclusion of the virtual conference organized on Wednesday by UN Women and IE School of Global & Public Affairs.
The panel discussion, inaugurated by Maria-Noel Vaeza, Regional Director of UN Women for the Americas and the Caribbean, and Susana Malcorra, Dean of IE School of Global and Public Affairs, focused on Latin America and was the first event developed by IE University and UN Women, who have established a strategic alliance in order to raise awareness about the importance of innovative financing and women’s empowerment.
“Despite recent progress, women are still unevenly represented in the financial and investment environment around the world,” said Susana Malcorra. “Investing in women and with them is essential to achieving strong, sustainable, and inclusive economic growth. Giving visibility to initiatives that allow inclusive access to financing is the objective of this conference, as well as meeting with organizations and agents who are actively working in this field.”
“Investing in women and with them is essential to achieving strong, sustainable, and inclusive economic growth.”
Maria-Noel Vaeza highlighted the benefits of a gender-focused approach: “Investing with a gender focus is not only a fundamental ethical imperative, but also good business. It brings greater economic benefits, promotes positive impacts on gender equality, and increases women’s opportunities to access capital and financing.”
“We must join forces among our countries and governments, the international financial system, multilateral banks and international organizations so as not to allow the current economic and social crisis to put gender equality on the back burner, because now more than ever it is essential to invest in it,” she continued.
“Investing in women brings greater economic benefits, promotes positive impacts on gender equality, and increases women’s opportunities to access capital and financing.”
Maria-Noel Vaeza, Regional Director of UN Women for the Americas and the Caribbean
Javier Niño Perez, Acting Director General of the Directorate of the Americas of the European External Action Service (EEAS), noted that despite the many initiatives within the EU to eliminate the gender gap, “much remains to be done” in Europe as well.
Susana Malcorra moderated a first panel made up of Marta Lucía Ramírez, Vice President of Colombia, Rebeca Grynspan, Ibero-American Secretary General (SEGIB), and Juan Carlos Mora, President of Bancolombia. All of them called for moving from theory to practice in order to close the gender gap.
“Only 10% of female entrepreneurs (globally) have access to financial credit services, now what we need is to give them real access to financing,” argued Marta Lucia Ramirez. “In Colombia we are very focused on getting women’s businesses to enter the public procurement market fully and equally.”
“From the financial point of view, it has been demonstrated with numbers that the risk of lending to women is lower,” added Juan Carlos Mora, who took the opportunity to point out that the Bank of Colombia has created specific credit lines for women. “At this moment, financial education is key and it must be focused on women,” he said.
Rebeca Grynspan agreed that much remains to be done within education, pointing out that there is still a long way to go to demonstrate that women’s empowerment provides economic returns. In addition, she stressed that there are still legal obstacles to women’s empowerment, mentioning that some laws need to be modified or eliminated and new ones created.
A second panel, moderated by María Noel Vaeza, consisted of Aimée Sentmat de Grimaldo, President of the Board of Directors of Banitsmo Bank, Gema Sacristán, General Director of Business at IDB Invest, Norma Castro, Executive Director of Financial Inclusion of Santander Mexico, and Laura González-Estéfani, Founder-CEO Venture City. The panelists concluded that partnerships and joint work are essential in the region.
Arancha González Laya, Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation of the Government of Spain, was charged with putting the final touches to a powerful conference by calling for action to truly invest in women and raise awareness of the cost of inequality. She called for governments and the private sector to set concrete objectives and measure progress in achieving equality so as to close the gender gap.
The next IE University and UN Women event will take place on 8 October and will focus on women’s economic empowerment in Europe. Both are being held within the framework of “Win-Win: Gender Equality Means Good Business”, a collaborative program of UN Women and the International Labour Organization, with the financial support of the European Union.
Watch full virtual meeting here.