I turned fifty in 2018 and had the opportunity to access some of my pension allowing me to make an investment of time and money in the Women of the World Endowment, an idea of such scale and altitude in its ambition that the only way it will succeed is with YOUR support. The Women of the World Endowment’s mission is to provide institutional financial support to the world’s most gender impactful entities, thereby enabling them to focus on delivering value for the world’s women and girls.
I was in Dubai on a business development trip in September of 2008 when Lehman Brothers fell. As the crisis evolved it was clear that the world was interested in a more responsible financial system. I started hearing the phrase “if Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters, things would have been different.”
I set out to interrogate what folks meant and came across an article in the Economist that indicated that gender diverse C-suite teams led to better profitability and stock price performance for publicly traded entities. By the end of 2010, I developed the Banking on Women platform at the International Finance Corporation to focus on directing a portion of IFC’s investment capital to women clients. By 2013, we had enough of a track record and deal pipeline to develop the first ever gender bond on the Uridashi market. In the same year, we launched, along with Goldman Sachs’ 10K Women, the first ever global debt fund, a US$600M fund, focused on investing in women entrepreneurs via local financial institutions.
In late 2014, I joined the Board of the International Center for Research on Women, a 40-year old NGO whose mission is to advance gender equity, inclusion, and the alleviation of poverty worldwide. I also moved into direct venture investments in women start-ups as an angel investor. Over the next 2 years, I would become acutely aware of the fact that entities focused on women’s empowerment, whether NGOs or profit maximizing vehicles, had a common problem – lack of access to capital. This issue above all issues informs the lack of scalability – too much time is spent raising money or operating with tight budgets so achieving scale and thereby impact is a mighty mountain to climb.
After conversations with friends, sponsors and mentors, I landed on the idea of a Women’s Endowment, a large pool of capital that has the flexibility to invest in gender lens assets across the capital spectrum, on-grant earned income and be in the room with other institutional pools of capital to catalyze positive change towards women and girls.
Please join me in making WoWE a landscape changing success!