In this podcast episode of “A Time to Act”, Lisa Kurbiel, Head of Joint SDG Fund Secretariat, hosts a discussion with Henriette Kolb, Manager of the Gender and Economic Inclusion Group at International Finance Corporation (IFC). This episode showcases the action being done by the UN and its various partners, goes through the work plan of the IFC, specifically relating to gender equality and how it is impacting the SDGs, and discusses how resources from private and public sectors can leverage and multiply the SDGs to close the gap between men and women, boys and girls.
Focusing on SDG-5, Gender Equality, Henriette Kolb and Lisa Kurbiel talk about the importance of investing in universal gender equality, as it is not only a social and moral imperative but also an economic necessity that can help individuals and countries as a whole. Lisa Kurbiel notes a recent World Bank Group study that found that “across the world, countries are losing an estimated 172 trillion dollars in wealth because of the differences in lifetime earnings between women and men…”
“Of course, the UN seeks to close the gap between women's and men’s economic participation because we know it drives the growth of businesses and economies and definitely improves the lives of families and communities.” -Lisa Kurbiel
Henriette Kolb walks listeners through her role at IFC, which focuses on optimizing its clients' business performances through gender-smart solutions. She cites an example in the Pacific, where IFC is invested in a seafood-processing company, which has about 80% of female employees. IFC found that many women were not showing up to work half-way through the pay period because they spent their salary soon after they received it. Once they spent their money, they were forced to work in the fish markets, with the payouts helping put food on the table. With the support of IFC, the firm developed solutions to make it easier for women employees to better manage their income, such as a switching from cash to credit payments and twice-a-month payment schedule. At the surface, it may appear to be a simple issue of payment but the solution helps gender equality efforts—by empowering women and girls better manage their income.
Henriette Kolb also notes that IFC has recently reached the $3 billion mark in investments going into the pockets of women entrepreneurs through financial institutions. However, the global community needs to do more because there is still an estimated $1.5 trillion financing gap for women-owned SMEs in emerging markets.
“If we were to close the insurance gap, the insurance industry could reap $1.7 trillion by 2030” - Henriette Kolb
Lisa Kurbiel then asks Henriette Kolb to reflect on the issue of childcare. Henriette Kolb notes that since 2017, IFC’s childcare work shows there is a strong business case for employers to meet the care needs of their employees. Women often took on disproportionate childcare work compared with men. IFC’s project sought to answer the question: if companies were to provide more assistance with childcare support, would it make a difference in women’s work experiences? IFC found that the companies that provided childcare benefits were saving costs by maintaining high retention rates, as one example. Addressing the childcare issue can be beneficial for everyone—women, men, children, as well as businesses and economies.
Henriette Kolb also notes that there’s a need for more data on sourcing supplies from women or minority-owned enterprises. The World Bank Group did a diagnostic and found that organizations only bought about 3.4% from women-owned enterprises. Moreover, if we acknowledge women as entrepreneurs, and not just micro-entrepreneurs, it can help break down some of those systemic barriers hindering women’s presence and success in the workforce—and can support our collective efforts in achieving SDG-5. In addition to the work IFC is doing, Henriette Kolb says IFC just joined the 2X challenge, which seeks to promote investing with a gender lens to support women entrepreneurs. Henriette Kolb reminds listeners that we need both public and private investments to reduce those key gaps in the entrepreneurial space.
Listen to the podcast, The Gender Investment Gap, to learn more!