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Investing in Women leads to Stronger Economic Growth, both more Sustainable and Inclusive

Investing in Women leads to Stronger Economic Growth | IE GPA

IE University and UN Women raise awareness about the importance of innovative financing and women’s empowerment.

In Latin America and Europe, there is still a gender unequal representation of women in the financial environment, which is causing significant losses in wealth globally. Investing in women leads to stronger economic growth, as it was concluded this Thursday at a virtual conference organized by IE School of Global & Public Affairs and UN Women.

“Investing in women sets a direct path towards gender equality, towards poverty eradication and towards inclusive economic growth that we need after this pandemic,” said Maria Noel Vaeza, UN Women Regional Director for the Americas and the Caribbean, at the beginning of the second seminar on innovative financing and women’s empowerment hosted by IE School of Global & Public Affairs and UN Women.

“Women have transformative power and need access to large amounts of capital to develop their full potential. That is why we firmly believe that investing in women is not only a fundamental ethical imperative, but also an excellent business,” Vaeza added, opening the conference with Dean of IE School of Global and Public Affairs, Susana Malcorra, Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Caribbean at International Labour Organization (ILO), Vinícius Pinheiro, and the Head of the Foreign Policy Instruments Service of the European Commission, Hilde Hardeman.

“There are many signs that show that a region like Europe, that is advanced in implementing policies that empower women in many areas, still has a way to go.”

Susana Malcorra, Dean of IE School of Global and Public Affairs

IE University and UN Women - Virtual Conference | IE GPA

The figures both in Latin America and the Caribbean and in Europe are not encouraging. “There are many signs that show that a region like Europe, that is advanced in implementing policies that empower women in many areas, still has a way to go,” highlighted Susana Malcorra. “From our perspective, it will make a huge difference to think about the economic aspect of women empowerment.”

The European Institute of Gender Equality (EIGE) estimates that implementing gender equality standards into the European economy could increase GDP per capita up to 10%,  and according to a report by IE University, in Europe, over 90% of capital raised by tech companies backed by European Venture Capital (VC) went to teams that did not have a single female founder.

Susana Malcorra explained that when IE University started preparing this paper, the institution decided to focus on Europe assuming that this continent would show stronger numbers. “It was surprising to see that as much as Europe has advanced this agenda in many fronts, in the specific area of women empowerment and investment with the gender lens that has not been the case,” she noted.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, investments in women’s companies are still very unrepresentative with impact investments; only 22% are made in companies with at least one female founder and if all founders are considered, the investment percentage drops to 8%.

“While our societies and economies need more women entrepreneurs, we are not providing adequate financial tools,” pointed out Hilde Hardeman. To address this paradoxical situation, she suggested working together, public and private sectors, and called the financial sector and policymakers to design recovery financial tools while looking to the gender lens all the time. “Let´s make sure that women have the right to gender-sensitive financial tools to make their projects come true.”

“When women participate in the labor market, their economic empowerment increases and society’s economic growth increases.”

Margot Wallstrom, former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden

Luis Felipe López-Calva, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNDP), opened the first panel moderated by Maria-Noel Vaeza and conformed by Shiva Dustdar, Head of Innovative Financing at the European Investment Bank (EIB), Anoushka Mehta, Head of Gender Lens Finance and Global Relationships in the Americas at HSBC, and Margot Wallstrom, former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden.

“We need to engender more strongly our discussion about financing for development, both at the macro-level and micro-level,” López-Calva considered. We need to work on three pillars: “protect, impact and invest,” Dustdar stressed during her intervention.

“Women across the value chain need capital and this fact has been largely overlooked” mentioned Mehta. Keys to solve the situation are “recognition” and “working always with a plan” meant Wallström.

Susana Malcorra moderated later an open dialogue with Laura Fernández, Head of Women’s Economic Empowerment at Fundacion Microfinanzas BBVA, Susan Segal, President and CEO of the Americas Society/Council of the Americas, and Jessica Schnabel, Global Head Banking on Women Financial Institutions Group (FIG), International Finance Corporation (IFC).

They all agreed that the real problem is the difficult access to capital and that COVID-19 is affecting women and men differently. For this reason, they called not to allow the current economic and social crisis to make us put gender equality on the back burner.

“While our societies and economies need more women entrepreneurs, we are not providing adequate financial tools”

Hilde Hardemann, Head of the Foreign Policy Instruments Service of the European Commission

The debate was closed by Thoraya Obaid, Chair of W20 and former Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, who called to expand the agenda and “to build forward better, because what we have done in the past wasn´t good and brought us where we are now.”

“Diversity, inclusion, rights and accountability” is what we need to do, she summarized. “Women have been the backbone of the response effects during the coronavirus crisis: they constitute 70 % of the global health workforce and 76% of unpaid caregivers globally. Fighting the pandemic would have not been possible without these women,” she concluded.

Watch full conference here.