Countries Failing to Educate Girls Lose Trillions

Students in a second grade classroom at Nyamachaki Primary School, Nyeri County, Kenya, April 2017 (Photo by Kelley Lynch / Global Partnership for Education) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Students in a second grade classroom at Nyamachaki Primary School, Nyeri County, Kenya, April 2017 (Photo by Kelley Lynch / Global Partnership for Education) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, July 25, 2018 ( News) – Limited educational opportunities for girls and barriers to completing 12 years of education cost countries between $15 trillion and $30 trillion in lost lifetime productivity and earnings, says a new World Bank report.

The report was released in honor of Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and co-founder of  Malala Fund, based out of Birmingham, England, which works to provide safe, quality secondary education and opportunities for girls.

When the Taliban took control of her hometown in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, writes Yousafzai, “…they banned many things, such as owning a television and playing music. They enforced harsh punishments for those who defied their orders. And they said girls could no longer go to school.”

Yousafzai’s father was a teacher who ran the girls’ school in her town, so she continued attending school. At the age of 15, on her way home from school, Yousafzai was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban.

Malala Yousafzai during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York on the day that the European Union and the United Nations launched a Spotlight Initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. September 20, 2017 (Photo by Ryan Brown / UN Women) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Malala Yousafzai during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York on the day that the European Union and the United Nations launched a Spotlight Initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. September 20, 2017 (Photo by Ryan Brown / UN Women) Creative Commons license via Flickr

She survived – and now, at 21, Yousafzai is furthering her education, studying for a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.

She is a world-renowned activist, campaigning for education, equality and peace for all children everywhere. The United Nations has declared July 12 to be Malala Day.

The World Bank report, “Missed Opportunities: The High Cost of Not Educating Girls,” documents that fewer than two-thirds of girls in low-income countries complete primary school, and only one in three girls completes lower secondary school.

Globally 89 percent of girls complete primary education, but only 77 percent complete lower secondary education, usually nine years of schooling.

The report finds that on average, women who have a secondary education are more likely to work, and they earn almost twice as much as women with no education.

Other positive effects of secondary school education for girls include: near-elimination of child marriage before the age of 18, lowering fertility rates by a third in countries with high population growth, and reducing child mortality and malnutrition.

“When 130 million girls are unable to become engineers or journalists or CEOs because education is out of their reach, our world misses out on trillions of dollars that could strengthen the global economy, public health and stability,” said Yousafzai.

“If leaders are serious about building a better world, they need to start with serious investments in girls’ secondary education,” she said. “This report is more proof that we cannot afford to delay investing in girls.”

Tech giant Apple® is doing just that. In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on July 13, Apple launched a new collaboration between its 10 Apple Developer Academies in Brazil and Malala Fund to advance girls’ educational opportunities.

Apple’s academies are preparing thousands of future developers to code the advancements of the future. Apple CEO Tim Cook has long said that the company expects to bring the program to countries around the world.

“We share Malala’s goal of getting more girls into quality education and are thrilled to be deepening our partnership with Malala Fund by mobilizing thousands of Apple Developer Academy students and alumni across Brazil,” said Cook, announcing the new partnership.

“Apple has been committed to education since day one, and we can’t wait to see what our creative student developers come up with to help Malala Fund make a difference for girls around the world,” said Cook.

As part of its new expansion into Latin America, Malala Fund, too, has offered grants to local advocates in Brazil.

The advocates join Malala Fund’s network and will implement projects across the country designed to empower girls, teachers and policymakers through skills development, school enrollment efforts and education advocacy.

“My hope is that every girl, from Rio to Riyadh, can be free to choose her own future,” said Yousafzai in Rio. “Whether she wants to be a developer, a pilot, a dancer or a politician, education is the best path to a brighter future. By tapping into Apple’s network of student developers, Malala Fund will gain access to new tools to support our mission of free, safe, quality education.”

Many of the potential impacts of education on development outcomes apply to both boys and girls. But the World Bank report finds that not educating girls is especially costly because of the relationships between education, child marriage, and early childbearing, and the risks that they entail for young mothers and their children.

“We cannot keep letting gender inequality get in the way of global progress,” said World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva of Bulgaria.

“Inequality in education is yet another fixable issue that is costing the world trillions. It is time to close the gender gap in education and give girls and boys an equal chance to succeed, for the good of everyone,” Georgieva said.

Today, some 132 million girls around the world between the ages of six and 17, the majority of whom are adolescents, are still not in school.

To remedy these missed opportunities, investments in education – both access and quality – are crucial. This is  especially true in some regions, such as Sub-Saharan Africa where, on average, only 40 percent of girls complete lower secondary school, says the World Bank report.

Countries also need policies to support healthy economic growth that will generate jobs for an expanding educated workforce.

The World Bank reports that universal secondary education for girls could increase their knowledge of HIV/AIDS and empower them to make decisions about their own health care. It could reduce the risk of intimate partner violence, improve their sense of psychological well-being, and reduce the risk of under-five mortality and malnutrition among their children.

Educating girls and promoting gender equality is part of a broader and holistic effort at the World Bank, which includes financing and analytical work to remove financial barriers that keep girls out of school, prevent child marriage, improve access to reproductive health services, and strengthen skills and job opportunities for adolescent girls and young women.

Since 2016, the World Bank has invested more than $3.2 billion in education projects benefiting adolescent girls.

The World Bank report was published with support from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the Global Partnership for Education, and Malala Fund.

Featured Images: Girls from the tiny village of Karche Khar near Kargil, India. From left: Maqsuma is in class 5 at the army school; Fatima is in class 4 at the local school.


G7 Turns Spotlight on Women’s Empowerment

Women bear their burdens in rural Rajasthan, India, November 18, 2008 (Photo by Richard Evea) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Women bear their burdens in rural Rajasthan, India, November 18, 2008 (Photo by Richard Evea) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, June 1, 2018 ( News) – Globally, countries are losing $160 trillion in wealth because of differences in lifetime earnings between women and men. This amounts to an average of $23,620 for each person in the 141 countries studied by the World Bank Group for a new report released this week.

“The world is essentially leaving $160 trillion on the table when we neglect inequality in earnings over the lifetime between men and women,” said World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva.

“This is a stark reminder that world leaders need to act now and act decisively to invest in policies that promote more and better jobs for women and equal pay at work,” she said.

The study, “Unrealized Potential: The High Cost of Gender Inequality in Earnings,” examines the economic cost of gender inequality in lost human capital.

Its release precedes this year’s meeting of the G7, currently headed by Canada, which has committed to ensuring that gender equality and women’s empowerment are integrated across all G7 activities during its presidency.

This informal group of seven advanced economies consists of: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The European Union also attends.

As G7 president, Canada will host the G7 Summit June 8-9 at the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu in the Charlevoix region of Quebec.

Advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment is one of the five themes that will occupy G7 leaders this year, says Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“The themes we have chosen for the year will help focus our discussions on finding real, concrete solutions to promote gender equality, women’s empowerment, clean energy, and economic growth that works for everyone,” said Trudeau.

On January 23, Trudeau announced the creation of the Gender Equality Advisory Council , which will ensure that gender equality and women’s empowerment are integrated across all themes, activities and initiatives of Canada’s G7 Presidency. The Council is co-chaired by Melinda Gates and Isabelle Hudon.

The Prime Minister said, “Women’s empowerment is a key driver of economic growth that works for everyone. All of us benefit when women can participate freely, fully, and equally in our economies and society, and supporting and empowering women and girls must be at the heart of the decisions we make.”

“That is why we made gender equality and women’s empowerment a central theme of Canada’s G7 Presidency – and created the Gender Equality Advisory Council for Canada’s G7 Presidency,” Trudeau said. “Thanks to the Council, we will make sure a focus on gender equality guides the work done at the G7 Leaders’ Summit – and set a precedent for the G7 going forward.”

For the first time, the G7 engagement process included a summit of diverse feminist leaders, the W7 . In April, over 60 feminist leaders from Canada, G7 countries and around the world met in Ottawa with Trudeau and Canada’s Minister for the Status of Women.

The W7 called for a more just and equitable economy that moves away from exploitation and extractivism. Too many women around the world are facing precarious, dangerous and exploitative work situations, and the current economic model is fueling conflict and violence against women, they said.

“The greatest threats my community in Guatemala faces today are caused by extractive industries from G7 countries; and most of them are actually Canadian,” said Irma Alicia Velasquez Nimatuj, an indigenous Guatemalan journalist and anthropologist, in speaking to Prime Minister Trudeau.

In nearly every country today, women face barriers to full participation in the work force and earning as much as men. As a result, women account for only 38 percent of their country’s human capital wealth, defined as the value of the future earnings of their adult citizens – as compared with 62 percent for men, according to the World Bank report.

In low income and lower-middle income countries, women account for just a third or less of human capital wealth.

Programs and policies that make it easier for women to get to work, access basic infrastructure and financial services, and control land could help achieve gender equality in earnings, the World Bank report suggests.

“Human capital wealth accounts for two-thirds of the global changing wealth of nations, well ahead of natural and other forms of capital,” said the report’s author Quentin Wodon, World Bank Group lead economist. “Because women earn less than men, human capital wealth worldwide is about 20 percent lower than it could be.”

The losses in wealth from inequality in earnings between men and women vary by region. The largest losses – each between $40 trillion and $50 trillion – are observed in East Asia and the Pacific, North America, and Europe and Central Asia.

This is because these regions account for most of the world’s human capital wealth, but losses in other regions are also substantial.

In South Asia, losses from gender inequality are estimated at $9.1 trillion, while they are estimated at $6.7 trillion in Latin America and the Caribbean and $3.1 trillion in the Middle East and North Africa.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, the losses are estimated at $2.5 trillion. While losses in low income countries are smaller in absolute terms than in other regions, as a share of the initial endowment in human capital, the losses are larger than for the world.

The study is part of a broader research program at the World Bank that benefits from support from Government of Canada, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, and the Global Partnership for Education.

“There are estimates showing the costs and benefits of gender equality to key economic sectors and economic growth,” said World Bank Group Senior Director for Gender Caren Grown.

“By focusing on wealth,” said Grown, “this study is a unique addition to that literature since wealth, and especially human capital, is the assets base that enables countries to generate future income.”

Featured Image: This textile factory in Shtip, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, employs about 120 women, who make garments for Italian and German brands. There is still no minimum wage in the FYRM textile industry. December 7, 2016 (Photo by Rena Effendi / UN Women Europe and Central Asia) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Women “Make Demands That Bite”

Actor and activist Danai Gurira, left; Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, center; and actor and activist Reese Witherspoon take part in the celebration of International Women's Day at UN Headquarters in New York, March 8, 2018 (Photo courtesy United Nations)

Actor and activist Danai Gurira, left; Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, center; and actor and activist Reese Witherspoon take part in the celebration of International Women’s Day at UN Headquarters in New York, March 8, 2018 (Photo courtesy United Nations)

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, March 13, 2018 ( News) – “Women are fighting to take steps that change their lives, and they are refusing to accept the practices that have normalized gender inequality, sexual misconduct, exclusion and discrimination across all walks of life,” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka told the opening session of the annual Commission on the Status of Women meeting at UN headquarters on Monday.

Mlambo-Ngcuka of South Africa is currently serving as executive director of the agency UN Women with the rank of Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.

She highlighted the importance of this year’s focus on rural women.

“It speaks to our commitment to fight some of the biggest challenges of our time: poverty, inequality, intersectionality and an end to violence and discrimination against women and girls, no matter where they live, or how they live, so that we leave no one behind,” she said.

Calling it “a tipping point moment,” Mlambo-Ngcuka urged the Commission to seize the opportunity to secure and accelerate progress, build consensus and share best practices to serve rural women, “the poorest of the poor.”

“It has never been so urgent to hold leaders accountable for their promises for accelerating progress” on the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals], she said. An unprecedented hunger for change in women’s lives is being seen around the world, as well as a growing recognition that when women banded together, “they can make demands that bite.”

Referring to himself as a “proud feminist,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, “Changing the unequal power dynamics that underpin discrimination and violence is not only the greatest human rights challenge of our time, it is also in everyone’s interests.”

“Discrimination against women damages communities, organizations, companies, economies and societies,” he continued. “That is why all men should support women’s rights and gender equality.”

At the Commission meeting today, the European Union unveiled a new, global, multi-year project called the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative, aimed at eliminating all violence against women and girls.

The Spotlight initiative is a “robust, comprehensive and targeted approach” that builds on the global #Metoo and #TimesUp initiatives, which “have certainly helped raising awareness about inequalities and discrimination that women face in the workplace, from pay gaps, under-representation to inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment,” said Neven Mimica, European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development.

The EU will make an initial investment in the order of €500 million (US$620 million). Other donors and partners will be invited to join the Initiative to broaden its reach and scope.

The money will be managed by a UN multi-stakeholder trust fund, with the support of three core agencies: the UN Development Programme, UN Population Fund, and UN Women, and overseen by the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General.

This year’s attention to women-centered concerns began on International Women’s Day, March 8, with actors Reese Witherspoon and Dania Guria spotlighting sexual abuse and the need for women’s empowerment.

“Understand that we will not leave, that we will not shut up, we want to see us represent 50/50,” said the American Oscar-winning actor and producer.

“Understand that we will not leave, that we will not shut up, we want to see us represent 50/50,” said Witherspoon on March 8 at UN headquarters. “We will defend women next to us.”

American-Zimbabwean actor and playwright Danai Gurira, who in addition to portraying Michonne in the TV series “The Walking Dead” and Okoye in the movie “Black Panther,” is an education and women’s rights activist, testified about her own experience as a woman in her profession.

“I drew strength [for my characters] from women from my own life in Zimbabwe,” she said.

“The potential of girls and women must not be squandered,” said Gurira, thanking those who stand up for women’s rights and urging everyone to join them.

Many thousands of women joined in marches around the world on International Women’s Day

Under the slogan "Different Causes, Shared Anger," women and men gathered for a march to support women's rights in Beirut, Lebanon, March 8, 2018 (Photo by Joelle Hatem)

Under the slogan “Different Causes, Shared Anger,” women and men gathered for a march to support women’s rights in Beirut, Lebanon, March 8, 2018 (Photo by Joelle Hatem)

International Women’s Day was marked in Spain with an unprecedented strike organized by women workers targeting gender inequality and sexual discrimination. The 24 hour strike was joined by 5.3 million women leading events and street protests across 200 Spanish locations; some of the top women politicians joined it. All shouted “If we stop, the world stops.”

According to Eurostat, in Spain, women are paid 13 percent less than men in the public sector and 19 percent less in the private sector.

In Saudi Arabia, women exercised a new freedom as restrictions were relaxed under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. They went jogging.

In Mosul, Iraq, women ran saying they wanted to win back their rights following the brutal occupation by ISIS which was ended in July.

In Rome, Italy, a group of prominent Catholic women met to demand a greater say in Church governance. But the list of speakers angered the Church and Pope Francis has declined to attend or celebrate Mass. A former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, described the Catholic Church as an “empire of misogyny.”

Activists in China were angered by the attitude of retailers who named the day “Queens’ Day” or “Goddesses’ Day” and offered women customers discounts on goods such as cosmetics.

Female journalists in Ukraine started a Facebook drive called “I am not your darling” in response to President Petro Poroshenko’s use of the term in replying to a woman reporter.

In France, the daily paper Liberation raised its price on Thursday, but only for men, to highlight the gender pay gap. President Emmanuel Macron also pledged to “name and shame” companies that pay women less than men for doing the same work.

But the spotlight this year is really on rural women. They make up more than one-fourth of the world population and the majority of the 43 percent of women in the global agricultural work force.

They till the lands and plant seeds to ensure food security for their communities and build climate resilience. Yet, because of deep seated gender inequalities and discrimination, rural women fare worse than rural men or urban women on almost every measure of development.

For instance, fewer than 20 percent of landholders worldwide are women, and while the global pay gap between men and women stands at 23 percent, in rural areas, it can be as high as 40 percent.

Rural women lack infrastructure and services, decent work and social protection, and are left more vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Yet, says the United Nations, rural women and their organizations represent an enormous potential, and they are on the move to claim their rights and improve their livelihoods and wellbeing. They are using innovative agricultural methods, setting up successful businesses and acquiring new skills, pursuing their legal entitlements and running for office.

Here are some key targets of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda that affect women and girls:

By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes.

By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education.

End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.

Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.

Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

Featured image: In celebration of International Women’s Day, March 8, 2018, the New York Stock Exchange and 62 other stock exchanges around the world hosted a bell ringing ceremony to raise awareness of the pivotal role the private sector can play in advancing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment. (Photo courtesy UN Women)


“Together for Youth, With Youth”

The 83 Heads of State and Government who participated in the 5th African Union - European Union Summit in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, November 30, 2017 (Photo courtesy African Union) Posted for media use

The 83 Heads of State and Government who participated in the 5th African Union – European Union Summit in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, November 30, 2017 (Photo courtesy African Union) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire, December 5, 2017 (  News) – To ensure a sustainable future, the European Union and the African Union are solidifying their decade-old financial and structural cooperation in order to support young people and women.

At the 5th African Union – European Union Summit in Abidjan last week, leaders from 55 African Union and 28 European Union Member States gathered to coordinate with young people and with each other with the primary message, “Together for Youth, With Youth.”

EU President Jean-Claude Juncker said, “Already today, the majority of African citizens are under 25 years old, and by the middle of this century, one in four people on Earth will be African.”

“But this demographic dividend cannot deliver without smart investments,” said President Juncker. “This is precisely why we are going to put our investments in education, in infrastructure, in peace and security, as well as in good governance – all of which will in turn inspire good business environments and create much needed jobs and growth.”

Ahead of the Summit, young leaders from Africa and Europe gathered at a Youth Summit on October 9-11 in Abidjan, and their work intensified in the context of the AU-EU Youth Plugin-Initiative.

The Youth Plug-In Initiative brings together 18 Europeans and 18 Africans to act as youth ambassadors for the 5th AU EU Summit. The youth ambassadors presented their ideas to improve the futures of Africans and Europeans alike to global leaders at the Summit.

A summary of the youth ambassadors’ views on six key topics – education, job creation, governance, peace and security, environment and climate change, as well as culture and the arts – is presented in the Abidjan Youth Declaration.

On the topic of education, the youth ambassadors had two new ideas to present.

The AU-EU Rural Education Action Program (REAP) is a proposed, multipurpose and incentive-based pilot intercontinental program to facilitate access to and the completion of primary and secondary education for children, particularly in rural areas.

REAP focuses on integrating schools in remote and hard-to-reach zones to attract and retain students, especially girls, in schools. It maps hard-to-reach areas and develops “toolkits” that include equipment and training.

The AU-EU Network of Digital Hubs for Primary and Secondary Education envisions an initiative, implemented through a public-private intercontinental partnership with major IT companies, aimed at promoting digital skills and digital connectivity at the earliest stages of education, to unleash the potential of digital technology in the community through youth education, training and support programs.

On the topic of Environment and Climate Change, the youth ambassadors from Europe and Africa agree. They state, “Every day, we move closer to the environmental apocalypse to the detriment of all of us, particularly marginalized groups. Youth inclusion is key to ensure environmental preservation and address climate change; it is up to our generation to change the course.”

“As is stated in the Abidjan Youth Declaration, youth-led initiatives must be supported to counterbalance existing tendencies and interests that work against the environment. African and European youth share the same concerns about biodiversity, desertification, coastal erosion, and unsustainable resource management. As the first generation to bear the brunt of climate change and environmental disruption, we must urgently work together on common challenges. It is crucial that we find inclusive, fair and sustainable ways to govern natural resources both locally and globally,” the youth ambassadors state in the Abidjan Youth Declaration.

The youth ambassadors presented two new ideas to improve human response to environmental issues.

First, they suggest mobilizing youth to monitor infrastructure development projects, while guaranteeing the efficacy of impact assessments, through a new AU-EU Youth Initiative on Sustainable Infrastructural Development they’re calling GREEN ID.

Second, they would introduce a youth-led project which expands across the EU and the AU the use of transparent mobile direct-payment methods to ecosystem services for biodiversity conservation, natural resource management initiatives and risk compensation.

Also in advance of the Abidjan Summit, the 6th EU-Africa Business Forum took place on November 27, where business leaders, investors, innovative start-ups, and young and female entrepreneurs from both continents developed recommendations on how to improve the business and investment climate.

After taking all this input into consideration, the 83 European and African Heads of State and Government set out their joint commitment to invest in youth for a sustainable future.

They committed to focusing their work on four strategic priorities:

  • Mobilizing investments for African structural and sustainable transformation, European leaders presented, and African partners welcomed, the EU’s new External Investment Plan, a €4.1 billion (US$4.8 billion) initiative to draw in €44 billion (US$51.9 billion) of private investments for sustainable development and job creation. Special attention will be paid to enhancing entrepreneurship of women and young people.

The newly launched Sustainable Business for Africa Platform is intended to allow for structured dialogue with the European and African private sector.

  • Investing in people through education, science, technology and skills development

Support for inclusive education and vocational training was highlighted. Leaders also agreed to enhance the mobility of students, staff and academics across the African continent, as well as exchange programs between Africa and Europe, such as ERASMUS+, the European Union funding program for education, training, youth and sport.

  • Strengthening Resilience, Peace, security and governance

Leaders will step up their work to enhance peace and security on both continents, pledging to strengthen strategic, political and operational cooperation between the African Union and European Union, in close partnership with the United Nations.

Support to ongoing work to fight against terrorism was reiterated, including the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram, the Joint Force of the G5 Sahel and the African Union Mission in Somalia, to all of which the EU is the biggest financial contributor.

  • Managing mobility and migration

European and African leaders reaffirmed their strong political commitment to address the root causes of irregular migration in a spirit of genuine partnership and shared responsibility, and in full respect of international laws and human rights, as well as creating legal pathways for migration.

They stressed the need to improve the conditions of migrants and refugees in Libya, and to provide them with appropriate assistance and to facilitate their voluntary repatriation to their countries of origin, as well as to create solutions for refugees.

Libya is the main gateway for people attempting to reach Europe by sea, with more than 150,000 people making the deadly crossing in each of the past three years.

Fleeing war and poverty, the refugees and migrants – most from Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Zambia, Senegal, Gambia and Sudan – are smuggled into Libya by a network of criminal gangs on the promise of reaching Europe.

Hundreds of African refugees, many of them young people and women, are being bought and sold in “slave markets” across Libya every week, Al Jazeera reported last week, with many of them held for ransom or forced into prostitution and sexual exploitation to pay their captors and smugglers.

To jointly address the situation of migrants and refugees who fall victim to criminal networks, in particular inside Libya, President Juncker, and High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat agreed to set up a joint EU-AU-UN Task Force to save and protect lives of migrants and refugees along the routes and in particular inside Libya.

Efforts will be intensified to enhance intra-African mobility and the free movement of persons within Africa.

On this basis, the European Commission and African Union Commission pledged to put forward concrete projects and programs within three months.

Featured image: Three young boys in El Sereif, North Darfur, Sudan. Today, more than half of all Africans are under 25 years old. (Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran / UNAMID) Creative commons license via Flickr.

Arab Oil & Gas Industry Opens to Women

Female employees at the Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company, 2017. (Photo courtesy GPIC) posted for media use

Female employees at the Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company, 2017. (Photo courtesy GPIC) posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

BAHRAIN, November 14, 2017 ( News) – Dr. Meena Marafi holds one of the few senior jobs occupied by women in the Arab oil and gas industry, but her talent is recognized across the sector.

As executive director of the Petroleum Research Center at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research Dr. Marafi was honored with the 2017 “Woman of Achievement” award at the Leadership Excellence for Women Awards and Symposium (LEWAS) gala ceremony on October 9 at The Diplomat Radisson Blu Hotel in Manama, Bahrain..

With a PhD in chemical engineering from Aston University England, she has authored more than 100 publications, including two books, and has been awarded two U.S. patents.

Dr. Meena Marafi, executive director of the Petroleum Research Center at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, earned the 2017 "Woman of Achievement" award from the Leadership Excellence for Women Awards and Symposium (LEWAS).

Dr. Meena Marafi, executive director of the Petroleum Research Center at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, earned the 2017 “Woman of Achievement” award from the Leadership Excellence for Women Awards and Symposium (LEWAS).

Dr. Marafi has 13 years of managerial experience as well as 26 years of research experience in petroleum refining processes, catalyst development, deactivation and its waste management.

She was a member of the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation/OPEC Research and Development committee for Clean Fuel Technologies from 2004 to 2012. Since 2015, she has been a member of the Advisory R&D board for the state-owned Kuwait National Petroleum Company, the national oil refining company of Kuwait.

And, Dr. Marafi also was selected as the first woman chairperson from Kuwait at the prestigious 17th World Petroleum Congress this year.

Other talented women, too, were recognized with LEWAS awards.

Fatima Sharif works as warehouse supervisor with Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company (GPIC), the only petrochemical producing company headquartered in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Sharif is winner of the LEWAS “Leading with Excellence” award. This award honors a professional woman with a degree and five to 15 years of experience in science and engineering, who demonstrates leadership skills that have an impact on the entire company on a corporate level.

“Rising Star” award winner Esra Alkhadhar Alhosani is an instrumentation and control engineer with the Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operation.

Following the example of these three exceptional women and the many other honorees, “empower, engage, and elevate” were the three words on the minds of those who attended the LEWAS event October 9-12.

The three-day event, packed with workshops, speakers, panel discussions, and awards, was intended to help women in the oil and gas industry throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council’s six Middle Eastern countries: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman.

LEWAS, was created when a group of women decided there needed to be a forum in the Gulf Cooperation Council that provides a place to celebrate women’s achievements, learn from well-respected women, network and improve upon knowledge. LEWAS is an industry initiative of the 4th Middle East Process Engineering Conference.

The event was held under the patronage of Baharain Oil Minister Shaikh Mohamed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, and it was supported with speakers from the World Petroleum Congress, Boston Consulting Group, Petroleum Institute, and Tata Consultancy Services among others.

For the first time, the gender diversity within the Arab oil industry is receiving researchers’ attention.

At the 22nd World Petroleum Congress in Istanbul in July, the World Petroleum Council and the Boston Consulting Group published the results of their first-of-its-kind study on the status, challenges and opportunies of gender diversity in the oil and gas industry.

Intended to provide a comprehensive baseline on gender balance across the oil and gas industry, the report’s findings are based on detailed personal interviews with more than 60 female and male senior industry executives worldwide, and a survey of about 2,000 male and female industry professionals from a wide range of companies and countries.

Data was provided confidentially to the report’s authors by all major international oil companies and several national oil companies. The authors say they received information from 38 companies with collective revenues of $1.9 trillion and employees representing between 25 percent and 30 percent of the industry’s global workforce.

The authors plan to update this benchmark report every three years in conjunction with the triennial World Petroleum Congress.

One reason why women are not advancing as quickly as some would like is that there is “a shortage of women in STEM education programs, which provide the necessary qualifications for a career in the technical areas of the industry.”

And then, the report states, ” the industry has a poor reputation as a place for women to establish a career; negative views about the industry are common.

Across the Arab oil and gas industry, the report finds that just one percent of all CEO are females.

The report shows that “although men and women start out on an equal footing, women rarely reach the top of the organization. Men in senior positions say that’s due to a lack of qualified female candidates for top positions.

The authors write, “This assessment is probably accurate: among women who have spent many years in the industry and might otherwise be considered suitable candidates for promotion to senior management, many have failed to accumulate the critical experiences that their male colleagues have. Thus, even among women who are still at the comapny after 15 or 20 years, the odds of landing a senior executive job are small: women hold less than 20 percent of these positions.”

“There are wide gaps in perception between men and women regarding the gender-related challenges the women face,” the report states.

For example, write the authors, “men believe that women are generally less flexible than men and therefore less suited to certain roles … But our research shows that women are in fact just as flexible as men, and sometimes even more so.”

Nevertheless, men in the Arab oil and gas industry business appear to fail to understand how tough it is for women to rise in this industry.

The report shows that 57 percent of women said that female emplyees receive less support for advancement into senior positions than male employees; only 24 percent of men agreed.

Then, 56 percent of women surveyed said women are overlooked for senior positions in the oil and gas industry; only 23 percent of men agreed.

The World Petroleum Council and Boston Consulting Group recommend that oil and gas companies work to remove structural barriers to female advancement and develop more high profile female role models to inspire young women and girls.

They recommend that STEM education be promoted among girls and young women, and scholarships and internships be offered to talented candidates.

One of the very few male oil and gas executives to receive a LEWAS award at the October event, Ali A. Al-Meshari, manager of Saudi Aramco’s Exploration and Petroleum Engineering Center – Advanced Research Center (EXPEC ARC), supports that recommendation.

During a panel titled “Narrowing the Gender Gap and Strengthening the Female Pipeline in the Oil and Gas Industry,”

Al-Meshari expressed his support for encouraging the STEM subjects for girls, along with strengthening the female pipeline within GCC companies.

Al-Meshari was presented with the 2017 LEWAS “Corporate Champion” award.

The LEWAS event was exciting for Dalia Abushulaih, who is with Saudi Aramco’s Professional Development Program.

“The workshop really focused on setting goals and creating the first step you need to achieve them,” said Abushulaih. “My personal experience with this workshop was truly remarkable.

“The greatest moment was when I presented to the whole workshop my goal. I hope to find an opportunity in the future, where I am connected to businesses, government, and society to be able to create positive progress that can be heard, learned, and applied in our great Kingdom,” said Abushulaih. “Having the amazing people I was surrounded by to support a dream of mine truly did illuminate my path.”


G20: Isolated on Climate, U.S. Empowers Women


At the G20 Leaders meeting in Hamburg, Germany, July 7, 2017, from left: British Prime Minister Theresa May, U.S. President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping, German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (Photo by Bundesregierung / Bergmann)

By Sunny Lewis

HAMBURG, Germany, July 10, 2017 ( News) – Leaders of the G20 countries came to Hamburg July 7-8 and after a tense meeting during which the United States stood alone in its rejection of the Paris Agreement on climate, Chancellor Angela Merkel said the G20 nations would not attempt to conceal the dissent in their ranks.

“With a view to the fields of climate and energy, discussed at the G20 summit,” Merkel said, “Where no consensus can be achieved, the Declaration must reflect dissent.”

The G20 Leaders Declaration states, “We take note of the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The United States of America announced it will immediately cease the implementation of its current nationally-determined contribution and affirms its strong commitment to an approach that lowers emissions while supporting economic growth and improving energy security needs.”

Adopted by consensus in 2015, the Paris climate accord holds the increase in the global average temperature to less than 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. To date, 195 countries, have signed the agreement, and 153 have ratified it, including the United States.

Under the Paris Agreement, each country determines, plans and reports its own contribution to mitigating global warming. There is no mechanism to force a country to set a specific target by a specific date.

While acknowledging disagreement with the United States, the 20 most industrialized nations tried to put a good face on it in the G20 Declaration, saying, “The United States of America states it will endeavor to work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently and help deploy renewable and other clean energy sources, given the importance of energy access and security in their nationally determined contributions.”

The leaders of the other 19 members declared that the Paris Agreement is “irreversible,” and reinforced their commitment to help developing countries cope with the changing climate.

“We reiterate the importance of fulfilling the UNFCCC commitment by developed countries in providing means of implementation including financial resources to assist developing countries with both mitigation and adaptation actions in line with Paris outcomes,” they state.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said at the close of the G20 meeting on Saturday, “Like other world leaders here, I am dismayed at the U.S. decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement and I have urged President Trump to re-join it.”

“The UK’s own commitment to the Paris Agreement and tackling global climate change is as strong as ever,” said May. “Not only will this protect the environment for future generations, it will keep energy affordable and maintain a secure and reliable supply in order to protect the interests of businesses and consumers.”

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said as the meeting closed, “I strongly welcome the G20’s focus on climate change, the sustainable development goals, and the challenges facing low-income countries.”

“I commend, in particular, Germany’s leadership in launching the Compact with Africa, which is designed to boost private investment across the continent. The countries involved in the first wave of this effort are already receiving support from the IMF, to help strengthen their macroeconomic frameworks and institutions, including by increasing support for capacity development,” said Lagarde.

The G20 Declaration welcomed the May report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) “Investing in Climate, Investing in Growth.

The report describes the structural, financial and political changes that can enable transition to a low-carbon world. That is the path the other 19 members of the G20 say they will take, regardless of the position of the Trump administration.

“We reaffirm our strong commitment to the Paris Agreement,” they declared, “moving swiftly towards its full implementation in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances and, to this end, we agree to the G20 Hamburg Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth.

“Innovation in sustainable and clean energy technologies is a top priority for G20 members,” they say in the Hamburg Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth.

The Plan excludes the United States, noting, “The United States is currently in the process of reviewing many of its policies related to climate change and continues to reserve its position on this document and its contents.”

The other 19 members of the group state their urgency to limit climate change as soon as humanly possible because the dangers are real and increasing.

“The impacts of climate change such as changes in temperature, precipitation, sea level rise and the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events are already noticeably impacting global ecosystems, economies, and societies. This puts at risk past and future progress towards the 2030 Agenda, including the goals of ending poverty and hunger,” warns the Hamburg Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth.

“Whilst these impacts will be felt by all countries, poor and vulnerable people will be disproportionately affected. Faster and more effective responses for affected poor and vulnerable people, in particular women and children, are required. Therefore, taking appropriate steps to enhance adaptive capacity, including through support to adaptation planning, is becoming increasingly pressing,” the 19 group members warn.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel makes a point to U.S. President Donald Trump, Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017 (Photo by Bundesregierung / Bergmann) Posted for media use.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel makes a point to U.S. President Donald Trump, Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017 (Photo by Bundesregierung / Bergmann) Posted for media use.

Nevertheless, U.S. President Donald Trump views the G20 meeting as a success for the United States. “The G 20 Summit was a great success for the U.S.,” Trump tweeted at 4am on July 9. “Explained that the U.S. must fix the many bad trade deals it has made. Will get done!”

At the G20 meeting European President Jean-Claude Juncker described climate change as “the biggest challenge for the future.”

Juncker said, “We regret the decision by the US Administration to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The Agreement remains a corner stone for global efforts to effectively tackle climate change and implement the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and we consider that it cannot be re-negotiated.”

The European president reassured the international community that the EU remains “steadfastly determined to swiftly and fully implement the Paris Agreement and accelerate the low-carbon transition,” and support vulnerable countries in the fight against climate change.

“It is still important for us that we do not fall behind what we had arranged in Paris in terms of climate protection,” said Juncker on the first day of the G20 meeting.

“What we do today for climate protection prevents the causes of tomorrow’s future; What we leave today, accelerates flight from the areas affected by drought,” Juncker said. “To this extent, the issue of climate change must be pursued here with all intensity and seriousness. It is the great future, and Europe must make a contribution.”

The G20 leaders declared, “We recognize the opportunities for innovation, sustainable growth, competitiveness, and job creation of increased investment into sustainable energy sources and clean energy technologies and infrastructure.”

“We remain collectively committed to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions through, among others, increased innovation on sustainable and clean energies and energy efficiency, and work towards low greenhouse-gas emission energy systems,” they said.

Environmental groups naturally praised the 19 members of the group who remained steadfast on climate protection.

World Wildlife Fund senior vice president of climate change and energy Lou Leonard said, “The G20 was a gut check moment where the world stood firm on continued climate action, despite pressure from the Trump administration. By reaffirming the Paris Agreement as irreversible and offering a concrete plan to implement it, world leaders made clear that they are looking forward, unwilling to retreat from gains made.”

“These leaders stand with thousands of American businesses, colleges and universities, and state and local governments, who have made clear that they too remain committed to climate action, a clean energy economy and a safer future, regardless of what Washington does,” said Leonard. “Together, the leaders of the real economy in the United States and political leaders of the world’s other largest economies are united in saying ‘We Are Still In.'”

G20 Supports Empowerment of Women

At the G20 leaders’ summit, the World Bank Group announced the creation of an innovative new facility with more than US$1 billion to advance women’s entrepreneurship and help women in developing countries gain access to the finance, markets, and networks necessary to start and grow a business.

The United States initiated the idea for the facility and will serve as a founding member along with other donor countries.

“This incredible facility will have a significant impact on women’s economic development around the world,” said President Trump. “It will help increase opportunities and economic growth while addressing unique barriers women entrepreneurs face. I am proud the United States is helping to lead support of this unprecedented initiative.”

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said, “Women’s economic empowerment is critical to achieve the inclusive economic growth required to end extreme poverty, which is why it has been such a longstanding priority for us.”

“This new facility offers an unprecedented opportunity to harness both the public and private sectors to open new doors of opportunity for women entrepreneurs and women-owned firms in developing countries around the globe.”

“‎Everyone benefits when women have the resources they need to participate fully in our economies and societies,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “Our government is determined to help women gain the tools they need to be successful entrepreneurs and leaders. This important investment will help women in developing countries to create jobs, build economies that work for everyone, and have a real and fair chance at success.”

“I am happy that this initiative for women presents real added value. I want to sincerely thank everyone who worked on it especially the President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim and Ivanka Trump and others. We can see from the example of this Women’s Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative that the G20 is not just a two-day Summit, but that the G20 is a process,” said Chancellor Merkel.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe said, “Women’s active participation in society is one of the pillars of Abenomics. Women’s empowerment and leadership will diversify and revitalize organization and societies. This facility embodies such belief in developing countries, and is promising initiative to achieve society where women shine.”

The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), the first World Bank-led facility to advance women’s entrepreneurship at this scale, will work to enable more than $1 billion of financing to improve access to capital, provide technical assistance, and invest in other projects and programs that support women and women-led SMEs in World Bank Group client countries.

The goal of the facility is to leverage donor grant funding, currently over US$325 million, to unlock more than $1 billion in IFI and commercial financing by working with financial intermediaries, funds, and other market actors.

The World Bank Group was invited to create the facility by the United States and Germany. The initiative received strong donor support from Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States, enabling the Bank Group to take the facility from concept to Board endorsement within the year of the German G20 presidency.

“It’s remarkable how quickly the international community has mobilized support for this new initiative, which has exceeded our target by nearly $100 million,” Kim said. “This demonstrates not only the importance of increasing women’s economic empowerment, but it scales up our efforts to help women open and grow businesses. We’re grateful to President Trump, Chancellor Merkel, and Ivanka Trump for being such strong champions of this facility and the broader cause of women’s entrepreneurship.”

The G20 will meet next in 2018 under an Argentinian Presidency. Then the G20 leaders will travel to Japan in 2019 and to Saudi Arabia in 2020.

The G20 includes: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States and the European Union.


Featured Image: German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to reporters at the final news conference of the G20 meeting, Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017 (Photo by Bundesregierung / Gungor) Posted for media use.

Women Worldwide Reap Crowdfunding Benefits


Kiva fellows participate in a a full-time, 6-month paid program. They come from a wide range of backgrounds and have gone on to work all over the world at companies and organizations, such as Apple, Grameen America, Save the Children,, Box and USAID. This is the current cohort of Kiva fellows. (Photo courtesy Kiva) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

SAN FRANCISCO, California, June 20, 2017 ( News) – Crowdfunding has been growing exponentially, with over $2 billion raised in the United States in 2015 alone. Now, women-led crowdfunding projects are enjoying success through this new path that allows them to realize their dreams.

“In connecting creators and entrepreneurs directly with customers and funders, it transforms the opaque and oligarchical market for early-stage fundraising into a more democratic, open one,” wrote Ethan Mollick in the “Harvard Business Review” last year.

Instead of relying on venture capitalists and marketers to project potential demand for new innovations, creators can directly reach out to customers and communities to refine ideas and gauge interest.

Crowdfunding is reshaping which ideas come to market by matching innovators with those who need innovation, and often it is women who need innovation and funding the most.

Bank of America and Kiva, a crowdfunding platform for social good based in San Francisco, have joined forces to support women’s entrepreneurship through the Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund.

Launched in 2016, The Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund matches, dollar-for-dollar, what Kiva’s citizen lenders provide to women entrepreneurs on

Bank of America’s commitment of $250,000 enabled the Fund to cross the US$1 million dollar milestone and will help Kiva reach a total of US$1 billion in loans crowdfunded since the site was founded in 2005.

“Capital is a vital building block for women entrepreneurs around the world,” said Anne Finucane, vice chairman at Bank of America. “We’re honored to be a founding partner of the Kiva Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund as one example of how we deploy our capital to fuel women’s economic growth and build thriving communities.”

Individuals can support women’s entrepreneurship by visiting and choosing who they want to receive $25 or more. They can choose to support a woman in El Salvador planning to grow her agriculture business by hiring more employees. Individual loans of $25 or more are collected until a woman’s full loan request is crowdfunded.

The Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund supports women entrepreneurs like Lindiwe, a 22-year-old woman living in rural Zimbabwe. Lindiwe received entrepreneurial training from Camfed and a Kiva loan crowdfunded by 11 citizen lenders. Lindiwe now operates three businesses in her village - a poultry business, a small shop and a line of juices that she sells to local laborers.

The loan helped her scale her juice business from 20 liters per week in sales to 200 liters. Her goal is to hire more employees and to be a role model to show girls what is possible when they persevere in education and work hard.

“I want to go far! I want to create as many employees as I can, especially girls,” said Lindiwe. “Helping girls to stay in school, helping them to achieve what they want in life, that is my favorite part.”

“These citizen lenders joined Kiva with the understanding that sometimes just a little bit of capital can be the bridge between talent and opportunity,” said Premal Shah, Kiva’s president and co-founder. “And when women entrepreneurs cross that bridge, they bring their families, communities and all of us with them.”

On June 13, funds that citizen lenders provided to women on were matched dollar-for-dollar by Bank of America, up to $250,000.

Since Kiva was founded in 2005, 2.6 million entrepreneurs from 83 countries have received nearly US$1 billion in loans, each crowdfunded in $25 increments on by 1.6 million citizen lenders.

Kiva says on its website, “Women reinvest 80 percent of their income in the wellbeing and education of their families With the same amount of land, women can increase crop yields by 20 percent, reducing world hunger for 150 million people Women business owners set an example for the next generation of students and leaders.”

A study from the University of Pennsylvania released in July 2016 found that on the popular crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, where the focus is on creativity and the arts, 41 percent of 61,654 campaigns that raised over $1,000 were created by women.

And now there’s a women-only crowdfunding platform. In late 2016, Karen Cahn launched iFundWomen, a crowdfunding venture for campaigns by female entrepreneurs. “There is such a massive funding gap for women in venture,” said Cahn. “It’s a little-known fact that women only get about 2 to 6 percent of venture dollars. We knew we had to do something about that.”

The idea for iFundWomen got its start last summer when Cahn and three other women: Sarah Sommers, Kate Anderson, and Shilpa Raut, decided to launch a digital video series called “You’re Not Crazy” and raise the money for it with crowdfunding.They funded their first campaign in three months.

Current crowdfunding requests at iFundWomen includes Rejuve Corp’s Plug-in-Pods, a business that repurposes shipping containers as chic affordable housing and entrepreneurial spaces. It’s seeking $20,000.

“We’re bridging manufacturing and industrial engineering with landscape architecture,” says Wanona Satcher, ReJuve Founder and CEO.

The potential global impact for rapidly built affordable living and work spaces is huge, especially as our urban centers grow, Satcher explains. “We intend to disrupt the $400 billion construction industry by the materials we use, how we recycle them and how we deliver.”

Also on iFundWomen, the Music City Icons Semi-Pro Women’s Basketball Team is seeking $10,000 to provide an opportunity for women to continue to play basketball and be leaders in the Nashville, Tennessee business community. “Our program designed around opportunity and development,” says Music City Icons owner Renee Bobb.

A totally different crowdfunding request from the other side of the world on iFundWomen is State of Benefit, which is seeking $7,500. This early stage mother-daughter ecomm startup ethically sources products made by women in Pakistan to ensure women artisans are getting living wages, working in safe environments, while bringing beautifully made jewelry, garments, and housewares into the U.S. market.

Launched in 2010, the San Diego-based GoFundMe is the world’s largest social fundraising platform, with over $3 billion raised so far from a community of more than 40 million donors worldwide.

Here, crowdfunding requests can be small in the amount of money they seek, but large in heart and in effect.

On this popular crowdfunding site, a 95-year-old grandmother, Grandma Great, is trying to raise US$1,000 to buy fabric to make the blankets she sends to mothers and babies in need in Kenya.

She has only $80 left to raise. “I took the first batch with me to Kenya in 2010 on a medical mission. We used the blankets to help rural medical clinics and community health workers with new mothers and babies,” writes Jeanette Nelson, who posted her grandmother’s appeal.

“I showed my grandma videos and pictures of the women receiving the blankets. Told her about how they were being used, and she has been diligent in her service to the mamas and babies of rural Kenya ever since,” writes Nelson. “I’m not sure if she is aware of her amazing legacy of service, but I will be forever grateful for her example.”

GoFundMe allows users to create their own website to describe what they are raising money for. Once the website is created, users can share their project with people through social network links on Facebook and Twitter and by email. People can donate to a cause through the website using a debit card or credit card and leave comments on the site in support of the project. GoFundMe generates revenue by automatically deducting a 5% fee from each donation.

To compare the Top 10 crowdfunding sites, visit:

“It’s incredible to see all the amazing ways people are using GoFundMe to make a difference in the lives of others,” says co-founder Brad Damphousse. “We feel very fortunate to have a front row seat to an ever-increasing number of uplifting, inspiring, and successful fundraising campaigns.”

Featured Image: Karen Cahn is the Founder and CEO of iFundWomen, a crowdfunding platform for women launched in 2016 which has since raised $600,000 for 100 entrepreneurs. The mission of iFundWomen is to close the funding and confidence gap for female entrepreneurs by working with early stage companies on coaching, brand positioning, and sales strategies. (Photo courtesy Karen Cahn) Posted for media use.


4 Tips For Finding A Career Mentor

31843658 - two young businesswomen having a meeting in the office sitting at a desk having a discussion with focus to a young woman wearing glasses

31843658 – two young businesswomen having a meeting in the office sitting at a desk having a discussion with focus to a young woman wearing glasses

By Lauren Davenport, CEO and founder of The Symphony Agency

It’s not unusual for careers to get off to wobbly starts as young people, hampered by their lack of experience and contacts, find it difficult to achieve a firm footing.

That’s one reason they should make it a goal to find mentors who could help guide them through the rough patches.

One of the biggest benefits of having a mentor is that person’s success can act as a catalyst for your belief in yourself.

It’s also a way to expand your network because a mentor can introduce you to people who could help you with your career and who you otherwise might not meet.

While mentors can be a great asset for young people in their career advancement, don’t expect the mentor to materialize out of nowhere and then do all the heavy lifting. Much of the onus is on the mentee to seek the relationship, cultivate it and make the most of it.

A few ways to do that include:

• Don’t be afraid to reach out. A simple LinkedIn search can help you find people who are currently in your dream job. Somehow, they managed to get the very thing you want. How did they pull that off? Send them a short message and tell them your aspirations. Ask if they can spare 30 minutes for you to visit their office and “pick their brains” about how they achieved success.

• Do your homework. After you went to all the trouble to set up that meeting, you don’t want to show up unprepared. Learn all you can about this potential mentor with a Google search. Write down any questions you want to ask. For the meeting, dress like you already have a job with the person’s company and be 10 minutes early.

• Join a networking organization. If reaching out to an individual isn’t in your comfort zone, seek a networking organization that focuses on career growth. Sign up for a MeetUp group taught by someone you admire. Take notes as the person speaks. After the event, you’re also going to need to muster up the courage to introduce yourself. To find a good mentor, in most cases you really are going to need to take the first step.

• Pay attention to the mentor’s advice. You may not follow through on every suggestion, but you do need to listen to what they have to say. After all, the wisdom and experience they can provide is the whole point of having a mentor. I recall early in my career joining a networking group and trying to pitch my company to the members without success. I mentioned to my mentor my inability to generate any business. She told me if I wanted to be taken seriously as a business woman I needed to change my wardrobe. I put away the summer dresses I typically wore and bought some tailored jackets and other clothes that helped present a business-professional look. Soon after, business picked up.

I still actively seek women who are in my industry and at similar career levels.

Sometimes they even work for competitors. We don’t share any company secrets, but we often are experiencing similar struggles, so we swap stories and give each other advice on how to overcome those challenges.

1ZLSB54z_400x400Lauren Davenport is chief executive officer at The Symphony Agency.  She founded the company after discovering that businesses were struggling to understand how to implement marketing and technology to reach their full potential in the digital age. Her natural entrepreneurial drive grew the organization from a boutique consulting business into a multi-million dollar agency. She is a contributor for the New York Daily News and has been featured on PBS, ABC Action News, iHeartRadio, AMEX OPEN, and more.

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Women Innovators Empower the World

Winners and presenters of the 2017 EU Prize for Women Innovators at the awards ceremony, from left: Vice-President of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness; Petra Wadström, founder and CEO of Solvatten AB; Claudia Gärtner, founder of microfluidic ChipShop; Kristina Tsvetanova, co-founder and CEO of BLITAB Technology; Michela Magas, founder of Stromatolite; Carlos Moedas, EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Brussels, Belgium, March 8, 2017 Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, March 9, 2017 (Maximpact News) – Four innovative European women won rich prizes last night at a ceremony in Brussels in celebration of International Women’s Day March 8. All winners have recently founded or co-founded a successful company based on their groundbreaking ideas, and all have received research and innovation funding in the past.

Funding for the EU Prize for Women Innovators comes from Horizon 2020, the largest-ever EU research and innovation program  with nearly €80 billion of funding available over seven years, 2014 to 2020, in addition to the private investment this money is attracting.

The winners of the 2017 EU Prize for Women Innovators are:

1st Prize (€100,000): Michela Magas, of Croatian/British nationality, is founder of Stromatolite, a UK Design Innovation Lab with a studio in Sweden, building a new generation of incubation and creative technology toolkits for innovation.

The Design Innovation Lab has built the Music Tech Fest platform – one of the first real Innovation Ecosystems with a community of over 5,000 innovators. With this, Magas has established a unique innovation ecosystem, policy context and support structure for radical and disruptive innovation by a wide community of creative developers.

Her practice-based PhD research investigated music interpretation systems and led to her co-authoring Sonaris, an innovative music search technology, as well as launching the Open Product Licenses, enabling design by attribution.

Magas directed, investigating the future of music technology with seven top European research centers. She founded the global Music Tech Fest, which brings music industry, SMEs, innovators and researchers together.

Rather than taking a single product to market, her ecosystem has created a fast track to innovation, yielding multiple innovative products and services.

Stromatolite has participated in four projects funded by Horizon 2020 and the 7th Framework Programme for Research, coordinating two of them.

2nd Prize (€50,000): Petra Wadström from Sweden, is founder of Solvatten, which produces a portable water purifier and water heater that are powered by solar energy. Solvatten is a durable, efficient and easy-to-use way to make water safe and hot.

Wadström is a biochemical research technician and mother of four. After years of research she turned a passion for art into a career. She says being an artist has helped her to think outside the box, combining elements of science and creativity.

3rd Prize (€30,000): Claudia Gärtner from Germany is founder of microfluidic ChipShop, which provides “lab-on-a-chip” systems as miniaturized solutions for better diagnostics. Microfluidics are considered to be the enabling tool for a novel approach to analytics and diagnostics, enabling the production of a wide range of tailor-made products and on-chip applications.

She leads a wide variety of research projects for the development of lab-on-a-chip systems for life science applications.

In 2002 Dr. Gärtner was nominated for the German Founders Prize and received the Thuringian award for the best business concept for ChipShop.

Microfluidic ChipShop coordinated the EU-funded Multisense Chip project funded by the 7th Framework Programme for Research.

A new category was introduced this year – the Rising Innovators Award – which recognizes excellence in female entrepreneurs aged 30 years or under.

The first winner of the prize worth €20,000 is Kristina Tsvetanova from Bulgaria, co-founder and chief executive of the Austrian company, BLITAB Technology, which has produced the first tablet for blind users, called BLITAB®. Tsvetanova is the co-inventor of BLITAB, the first tactile tablet for blind and visually impaired people.

This is the fourth edition of the contest, which began in 2011. To be eligible to compete, participants must have founded or co-founded a company before January 2015 with a turnover of at least €100,000, and either they themselves or their companies must have previously benefitted from public or private funding for research and innovation, whatever the source.

At the award ceremony, EU Commissioner Carlos Moedas and Vice-President of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness announced the four winners of the this year’s EU Prize for Women Innovators.

Moedas, commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said, “The winners of this year’s EU Prizes for Women innovators are truly inspiring. Europe needs more women innovators like them, with great ideas and the courage and determination to take risks and succeed.

The innovations that the four winners have brought from idea to market are remarkable not only from a business point of view but also because they will benefit and improve the lives of many people in Europe and beyond,” said Moedas.

McGuinness, vice-president of the European Parliament, said, “This prize demonstrates the significant contribution of women innovators in bringing many life-changing innovations to the market. It is very fitting that on this International Women’s Day 2017 we recognize and celebrate their entrepreneurial spirit and achievements.

We do so in a very visible way to give inspiration to other women and, in particular, to young women and girls to look towards innovation and entrepreneurship,” McGuinness said.

Following an open call for submissions in autumn 2016, the winners were chosen by a high-level jury of independent experts  from business, venture capital, entrepreneurship and academia.

Forty-seven applications were submitted from across the 28 countries currently in the European Union and additional countries associated to Horizon 2020. These associated countries include: Albania, Armenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Faroe Islands, Georgia, Iceland, Israel, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tunisia, Turkey and Ukraine.

The other nine women chosen as finalists for the 2017 EU Prize for Women Innovators are also interesting.

Here’s a little more information about the 12 finalists, presented in alphabetical order.

1) Gema Climent is the founder, R&D director and the only administrator of Nesplora technology and behavior. Nesplora is a company funded with the objective of analyzing human behavior using emerging technologies, making it more scientific, functional and objective. It offers a disruptive conception of evaluating human cognition and behavior using standardized and scientifically validated virtual reality scenarios.

2) Barbara Demeneix is professor of Physiology at the Natural History Museum in Paris, where she studies evolution of hormone systems. She invented and brought to market the first method for screening chemicals and environmental samples using genetically-engineered fluorescent embryos. She co-founded WatchFrog, a company marketing biological tests for screening chemicals and assessing water quality. Demeneix was recognized for her mentoring, particularly of young women scientists, with the Nature Mentorship Award, 2011. WatchFrog has participated in six actions that received EU funding from the 7th Framework Programme for Research; two are ongoing.

3) Mary Franzese cofounded Neuron Guard, a start-up that is developing a life-saving medical device for brain damage directly at the site of the event. Having both an economic and communicative soul, she dreams of being “Chief Love Officer” of a company leader in the development of standard of care technologies for Therapeutic Temperature Management, where gender equality and the inclusion act as master. The company has received funding from the Emilia Romagna (Italian Region) Start Up Innovative fund.

4) Dr. Gemma Galdon Clavell is a policy analyst working on the social, ethical and legal impacts of data-intensive technologies. She is the founder and director of Eticas Research and Consulting, a rapidly-growing organization with aninternational presence that brings together social scientists, computer scientists and IT experts to help clients tackle the challenges and opportunities of the data society by building values into the design process. The company has received EU funding from both Horizon 2020 and the 7th Framework Programme for Research.

5) Dr. Claudia Gärtner is a founder of microfluidic ChipShop in Jena, Germany. Microfluidics or “lab-on-a-chip” systems are considered to be the enabling tool for a novel approach to analytics and diagnostics, enabling the production of a wide range of tailored-made products and on-chip applications. In 2002 she was nominated for the German Founders Prize and received the Thuringian award for the best business concept for ChipShop. She leads a wide variety of research projects for the development of lab-on-a-chip systems for life science applications. Microfluidic ChipShop coordinated the EU-funded Multisense Chip project funded by the 7th Framework Programme for Research.

6) África González Fernández is a full professor in Immunology and Director of the Biomedical Research Center (CINBIO) at the University of Vigo in Spain. She is also co-founder of the company NanoImmunoTech, the first European company dealing with biomedical characterisation and synthesis of nanomaterials, bioconjugation and biosensing. NanoImmunoTech has received EU funding under Phase 1 and 2 of the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument, to develop the Heatsens technology.

7) Michela Magas is the founder of Stromatolite, a Design Innovation Lab that has built the Music Tech Fest platform – one of the first real Innovation Ecosystems with a community of over 5,000 innovators. Her ecosystem has yielded multiple innovative products and services enabled by her ideas of Open Product, Market Adoption, and Innovation IP, creating a fast track to innovation. Stromatolite has participated in four projects funded by Horizon 2020 and the 7th Framework Programme for Research, coordinating two of them.

8) Dr. Kamila Markram is a neuroscientist at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne and co-founder and CEO of Frontiers, one of the largest and most influential Open Access publishers in the world. Frontiers is a digital-age scholarly publishing company with a mission to bring Open Access publishing and Open Science IT solutions to academics and the general public. In 2014, Frontiers received the ALPSP Gold Award for Innovation in Publishing. In 2016, Markram was named a L’Hebdo Forum 100 personality, a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and recipient of the Gold Stevie Award for Women in Business. Frontiers has taken part in one project funded by the 7th Framework Programme for Research, and is participating in two projects funded by Horizon 2020.

9) Sandra Rey co-founded Glowee which develops a biological lighting system that works due to the natural properties of bacteria to revolutionize the way we produce, consume and illuminate. Glowee has received funding from the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) InnoEnergy programme.

10) Isabel Trillas Gay is full Professor at the Faculty of Biology, Universitat de Barcelona and has co-founded the spin-off Biocontrol Technologies, S.L. for the development of her discovery, a pesticide based on the natural microorganism, Trichoderma asperellum strain T34, to control crop diseases. In Biocontrol Technologies she is partner, member of the direction committee and scientific adviser. In 2016 the company was awarded a Seal of Excellence under Horizon 2020’s SME Instrument Phase I.

11) Kristina Tsvetanova is the co-founder and CEO of BLITAB Technology GmbH – the World’s Most Creative Start-up 2015 and European Winner of Social Entrepreneurship and Disability. She is the co-inventor of the award-winning innovation BLITAB®. Thanks to the international recognition that she has received in Europe, USA, Mexico, Singapore, China and Japan, and her persistance in empowering unprivileged children via technology, Tsvetanova was named as one of the “Social Movers” of today by Agora+D in 2015. Blitab has received EU funding from the 7th Framework Programme for Research’s CREATI-FI calls

12) Petra Wadström, born in Stockholm and mother of four children, is the founder and CEO of Solvatten AB. Solvatten is a portable, durable, highly efficient and easy-to-use way to make water safe and hot, just by harnessing the power of the sun. She is a biochemical research technician but after years of research she turned a passion for art into a career. Being an artist has helped her to think outside the box, combining elements of science and creativity. Solvatten has received EU funding from Phase 1 of Horizon 2020’s SME Instrument.

The aim of the EU Prize for Women Innovators is to raise public awareness of the need for more innovation and more women entrepreneurs, to recognize the success of women in innovation and create strong role models.

Women are underrepresented in terms of creating innovative enterprises. Only 31 percent of entrepreneurs in the European Union are women. Prize organizers say this imbalance between the genders represents an untapped potential for Europe, which needs to use all its human resources to their full potential to remain competitive and find solutions to economic and societal challenges.

Featured image: First Prize winner Michela Magas has engaged in 20 years of innovation. Her work brings together science and art, design and technology, academic research and industry. (Photo courtesy European Commission) Posted for media use

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American Voters Fill Congress With Female Firsts


Elizabeth Cheney, Nanette Barragán, Ilhan Omar and Pramila Jayapal. Images taken from their campaign sites.

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, November 26, 2016 ( News) – Republican Donald Trump laid claim to the prize of President-elect earlier this month, accompanied by a Republican sweep of both Houses of Congress, so one might think the United States is united in its political will. Not so.

While President-elect Trump – who has often publicly denigrated women, threatened to punish women as criminals for having abortions, and has, by his own admission on tape, grabbed women’s privates without asking – consolidates his power and plans his strategies, the incoming Congress is brimming with strong females who are already first in some important way.

During the 2016 election, history was not made at the presidential level, although a ballot recount in three states, funded by the crowdsourcing efforts of Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein, has a small chance of changing the outcome. That could happen only if all three states – Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan – are found to have elected Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump.

The number of women in Congress will remain static at 104 or 19 percent – 78 Democrats and 26 Republicans. In the Senate, a record number of 21 women will serve, 16 Democrats and five Republicans, one more than in the past two Congresses.

That’s far less than the overall American population, which is half female.

The only landmark for women’s participation is the election to Congress of more women of color than ever before, finds the Center for American Women and Politics  at Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey.

The incoming Congress is set to be the most racially diverse in history.

A total of 38 women of color will serve in the 115th Congress. Nine newly-elected women of color, all Democrats, will enter Congress on January 3, 2017 – three in the Senate and six in the House.

Powerful Women Ascend to the Senate


Catherine Cortez Masto is the first woman elected to represent Nevada and first Latina elected to serve in the United States Senate. (Photo courtesy Catherine Cortez Masto) Posted for media use.

Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, elected to the U.S. Senate from Nevada to replace outgoing Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, has chalked up two firsts. She is the first woman elected to represent Nevada and first Latina elected to serve in the United States Senate.

She is one of two women who come to the Senate directly from serving as attorney general in their states. Cortez Masto was the Attorney General of Nevada from 2007 to 2015, where she worked for women and children.

As attorney general,” she has said, “I made protecting Nevada women my top priority and I won’t stop until paycheck fairness is a reality for all women.

Kamala Harris will be one of two U.S. senators representing California, and she comes to the Senate directly from six years as California’s attorney general.

Back in 2010, Harris was the first female, the first African-American, and the first Indian-American person to become attorney general in California.

Born in Oakland, California, Harris is the daughter of an Indian-American mother, a breast cancer specialist who immigrated from India in 1960, and a Jamaican-American father, a Stanford University economics professor.

Harris has been an outspoken proponent for gun control her entire career. While serving as district attorney in Alameda County Harris recruited other district attorneys and filed a brief in court arguing that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not protect an individual’s right to own firearms.

In 2009, Harris wrote “Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor’s Plan to Make Us Safer,” where she looks at criminal justice from an economic perspective and attempts to reduce temptation and access for criminals. The book goes through a series of “myths” surrounding the criminal justice system and presents proposals to reduce and prevent crime.


Tammy Duckworth, the first female double amputee from the Iraq war, is moving into the Senate from the House of Representatives. (Photo courtesy U.S. Institute of Peace) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Tammy Duckworth, the first female double amputee from the Iraq war, is not new to Congress. She is moving into the Senate from the House of Representatives where she has fought for veterans’ rights, as she has always done. “Serving my fellow Veterans is my life’s work,” she says.

Duckworth is the first military veteran elected to the Senate as a Democrat. She joins holdover Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, the first woman veteran elected to the Senate.

Born in Bangkok, Thailand, Duckworth lost her right leg near the hip and her left leg below the knee from injuries sustained on November 12, 2004, when the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter she was co-piloting was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade fired by Iraqi insurgents.

I know what it’s like to fight for your life behind enemy lines and I know what it’s like to not be left behind,” Duckworth said on the campaign trail. “If you elect me to the Senate I’ll be guided by the simple notion that if you don’t give up on yourself, America won’t give up on you. I will fight for every kid trying to pay for college, for every small business trying to grow, and for every family working hard just trying to catch a break.

Then there’s Senator-elect from New Hampshire, Margaret “Maggie” Hassan, who is the current Governor of the State of New Hampshire.

A Democrat, Hassan defeated incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte in a close race considered one of the most competitive of the year. It is the first time this Senate seat has been won by a Democrat for more than 40 years.

Hassan will serve with Senator Jeanne Shaheen; both politicians have served as New Hampshire Governor prior to unseating an incumbent senator.

Hassan has said climate change and reproductive rights would be her top priorities if elected to the Senate.

New Hampshire will once again be represented by an all women congressional delegation, as it was 2013-2015, with two women in the Senate and two in the House. All of the Granite State women are Democrats.

 When the 115th Congress opens in January, female representation in the House will drop slightly. The number of women will go from 84 to 83 as a result of the retirement of 11 female lawmakers, some of whom are being replaced by men.

A record number of 108 women currently serve in the 114th Congress, which opened in January 2015, seven more than at the beginning of the 113th Congress, which opened January 2013 at the beginning of President Barack Obama’s second term

Americans elected three new Republican Congresswomen to the House of Representatives, and two in this freshman class are also first in some important way.

Elizabeth Cheney is the first daughter of a former U.S. vice president to be elected to Congress. Congresswoman-elect Cheney is the elder daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, who served in the George W. Bush administration. She won Wyoming’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Liz Cheney held several positions in the U.S. State Department during the George W. Bush administration. Cheney headed the Iran Syria Policy and Operations Group, established in March 2006, a unit within the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

She is a co-founder of Keep America Safe, a nonprofit group founded in 2009, whose key aim appears to be to pressure the United States to remain in a state of constant military mobilization.

Before law school, Cheney worked for the State Department and for the U.S. Agency for International Development, as a USAID officer in U.S. embassies in Budapest and Warsaw. After graduating, Cheney practiced law in the private sector and as an international law attorney and consultant at the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group.

In January 2012, Cheney was hired as a contributor for Fox News, providing analysis for the Republican primaries and serving as substitute host of Fox News’ programs.

On November 8, Republican Jenniffer González, 40, became the first woman and youngest person to be elected as Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico in the U.S. Congress.

An attorney, González comes to the House of Representatives from three prominent roles: as Minority Leader of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico, as vice-chair of the PNP, and as chairwoman of the Puerto Rico Republican Party.

At the age of 32, she was elected House Speaker by members of her New Party for Progress delegation, becoming the youngest person in Puerto Rican history to be elected Speaker of the House.

Republican Claudia Tenney comes to the House from New York’s 22nd district in the central part of the state.

 Currently an Assemblywoman in the New York State Legislature, she is the daughter of the late Judge John R. Tenney, who served as a Justice of the Supreme Court of New York from 1969 through 2003.

 Tenney says she wants “to unleash free market principles by getting big government off our backs.” She opposes Obamacare and has signed a pledge to oppose all tax increases in Congress.

On the Democrat side of the aisle, Congresswoman-elect Nanette Barragán is the youngest of 11 children raised by immigrants from Mexico. Barragán beat the odds and put herself through University of California at Los Angeles and University of Southern California Law School.

Barragán has worked as a community advocate in Los Angeles. In Washington, she worked in President Bill Clinton’s White House and then at the NAACP – focusing on racial and social justice issues.

 She stood up to the big oil companies to keep them from drilling in neighborhoods and on beaches. In Congress, Barragán has pledged to keep up the fight to protect air and water.


Democrat Valdez Venita “Val” Demings was elected to the House of Representatives from Orlando, Florida. She served as Chief of the Orlando Police Department, the first woman to hold the position. (Photo by RotaryDistrict6980) Posted for media use.

Democrat Valdez Venita “Val” Demings was elected to the House from Orlando, Florida. A police officer, she served as Chief of the Orlando Police Department, the first woman to hold the position.

As Orlando’s Police Chief, her holistic approach and leadership led to a 40 percent drop in violent crime. She founded Operation Positive Direction, a mentoring program that empowers at-risk students through tutoring, community service, and positive incentives.

Democrat Pramila Jayapal is the first Indian-American woman to serve in the House of Representatives and the first woman to represent Washington’s largest city, Seattle, in Congress.

 Jayapal was born in Chennai, India to a Tamil family and raised in Indonesia and Singapore. She came to the United States in 1982, at the age of 16, to attend college. She graduated from Georgetown University, and earned an MBA from Northwestern University. She became a U.S. citizen in the year 2000.

Jayapal founded Hate Free Zone after the 2001 September 11 attacks as an advocacy group for immigrant groups. Hate Free Zone registered new American citizens to vote and lobbied on immigration reform. They successfully sued the Bush Administration’s Immigration and Naturalization Services to prevent the deportation of over 4,000 Somalis.

The group changed its name to OneAmerica in 2008. Jayapal stepped down from her leadership position in May 2012. In 2013 she was recognized by the White House as a “Champion of Change.”

Democrat Stephanie Murphy is making history as the first Vietnamese-American woman elected to Congress. She is a business consultant, professor, and former national security specialist from the state of Florida.

Born in 1978 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Murphy currently lives in Winter Park, Florida. She works as an executive at Sungate Capital, where she leads investment efforts and implements government affairs initiatives. She also teaches business and social entrepreneurship at Rollins College.

Murphy has said that in Congress she will be a strong advocate for environmental protection, for clean air and water, and for smart investments in green energy that reduce dependence on fossil fuels and make energy affordable for Florida families.

 Democrat Jacky Rosen, a computer software developer who cares about the environment, was elected to the House from Nevada’s largest city, Las Vegas.

She sees the seat as providing, “opportunities to invest in solar and renewable energy, protect our environment and reduce utility bills.” She also sees educational opportunities that will create a prepared workforce to attract business and investment, as well as opportunities “to protect our seniors and their retirement.

A leader in her synagogue, Rosen supports programs that provide meals and housing to the homeless.


Democrat Lisa Blunt Rochester, center, will be the first woman and the first person of color to represent Delaware in the halls of Congress. Campaigning June 26, 2016. (Photo courtesy Lisa Blunt Rochester campaign) posted for media use.

Democrat Lisa Blunt Rochester is the member-elect for the House seat representing Delaware’s at-large congressional district.  She is the first woman and the first person of color to represent Delaware in the halls of Congress.

Rochester grew up in Wilmington, majored in International Relations at Fairleigh Dickinson University and later earned a Master’s in Urban Affairs and Public Policy from the University of Delaware.

Believing that national security requires a strong understanding of the rest of the world has helped women enter the workforce in the Middle East, provided vaccines to children in Africa, and co-authored a book while living in China with her late husband Charles. Her book, “THRIVE: 34 Women, 19 Countries, One Goal,” profiles women who reinvented themselves while living in a foreign country.

On the state level, too, women of color are carving out places for themselves.

Former Somali refugee and executive director of the Minneapolis group Women Organizing Women Network , Ilhan Omar, for instance, has won the Democratic seat for Minnesota House Representative, District 60B.

She is the first Somali-American, Muslim woman in the nation to hold an office at this level.

The WOW Network aims to empower all women, specifically first–generation and second-generation immigrants, to become engaged citizens and community leaders.

Omar holds degrees in business administration, political science and international studies. She completed a Policy Fellowship at University Of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and she has served on numerous nonprofit boards.

Committed to unity and justice, Omar is focused on advancing issues such as raising the minimum wage to $15/hour, closing the opportunity gap, and fighting for environmental justice and racial equity.

 Omar last week spoke out against hate. “Somehow, we must confront the racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and homophobia that plagues this country,” she said. “There are no easy answers, but we must find ways to try to end this cycle of hate.

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Events: Women in Technology

Web Summit Women

Web Summit 2016, will be held in Lisbon this year and has become Europe’s Largest Technology Marketplace with over 50,000 attendees, 20,000 plus companies from over 150 countries.

The Summit has grown exponentially since it’s creation 6 years ago, which is perhaps a reflection of the general growth rate within the technology sector.

Though the number of companies and advancements in technology and clean technologies are increasing rapidly, the same can not be said for the number of women in technology fields.

Women have been in advanced technology since Hedy Lamarr played a key role in the invention of spread-spectrum technology (radio guidance technology) yet their numbers have never been more than an underrepresented small percent.

In January this year Elena Kvochko wrote for Forbes “Why There Are Still Few Women Leaders in Tech” the following is a section of the article that suggests that there is actually a decline in women in technology and computing sectors.

The role of women in technology has significantly stalled and, in some cases, even declined. In 2008, women on average held 25% of IT-related jobs in the US, a drop from the 36% occupied in 1991. Also, women between 25 and 34 are reporting increasing dissatisfaction with their tech careers. 56% leave their jobs at the highlight of their career, which is twice the quit rate for men. According to a Reuters study, 30% of 450 technology executives stated that their groups had no women in leadership positions. Women are becoming increasingly invisible in the thriving technology and computing sector, one of the top U.S industries and one of the fastest-growing professional occupations among U.S workers with an estimated 1.8 million jobs in computing by 2018, according to the U.S Department of Labor.

The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) released “Women in IT: By the Numbers“a single page overview of compelling statistics on women’s participation in IT.

Women in IT_By the Numbers

It states that 25% of professional computing occupations in the U.S, and only 17% of Fortune 500 Chief (CIO) positions were held by women in 2015.

When you look at technology industry events you find around 25% of speakers at tech events are women.

Women speakers made up around 2% of Web Summit’s past keynote speakers, though there are hopes that the percentage will increase this year.

In fact Web Summit is offering a €45 discount to female attendees to encourage more women within tech to take part in their upcoming technology conference.

If interested use the code: WSREM51815u to get tickets before Friday, July 15

There is hope for 2016 as AWS Public Sector Summit 2016  featured keynote speakers consisted mainly of women.  Panelist Beth Bergsmark, deputy CIO of Georgetown University was quote saying “If you are a woman in tech … be out there and let them see you,”  by Samantha Ehlinger in her recent article “Women in technology say it’s time to speak up, engage others

For more up coming events in various sectors including technology see the Maximpact Blog Events Page

Gates Offers $80M to Close Gender Data Gap


By Sunny Lewis

SEATTLE, Washington, May 31, 2016 ( News) – Compared to the lives of men, little is known about the lives of the world’s women – how much time they spend on unpaid work, if they own land, if they can get credit, if they die in childbirth, which programs meant to help them are succeeding and which are not.

To narrow these gender data gaps and accelerate progress for women and girls throughout the world, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed to invest US$80 million over the next three years.


Melinda Gates, who co-chairs the Seattle-based foundation with her husband, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, announced the new funding in her keynote speech at the Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen earlier this month.

Gates and the foundation’s team have concluded that if the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are to be reached by 2030, the world must expand its knowledge about the lives and livelihoods of women and girls, their welfare and well-being, and the contributions they make to their communities, countries and economies.

By adopting the SDGs the world agreed to achieve gender equality by 2030. But we cannot close the gender gap without first closing the data gap,” said Melinda Gates.

“We simply don’t know enough about the barriers holding women and girls back, nor do we have sufficient information to track progress against the promises made to women and girls,” she said. “We are committed to changing that by investing in better data, policies and accountability.”

“Data holds power,” explained Gates. “It demonstrates the size and nature of social or economic problems, and brings clarity around who is falling through the cracks. Through reliable data, women and girls’ lives can become visible and counted, helping to inform programming and hold leaders to account.”

Yet, despite the need and the power, there is still a lack of comprehensive, current information about women and girls, especially in developing countries, hindering efforts to advance gender equality.

The Gates Foundation‘s new $80 million commitment will support efforts intended to fill critical gender data gaps. One example would be learning much time women and girls devote to unpaid work, and how this affects their ability to complete an education, get a job or start a business.

The Gates funding will be directed to improving the accuracy and reliability of data collection, which can reveal who owns assets like land, property or credit.

The funds are expected to equip decision makers with more timely and clearer evidence about programs and interventions that are working and those that are not.

On the political level, the Gates funds will support civil society in holding leaders to account for the commitments they make to women and girls, fostering the political will to achieve gender equality.

Finally, the new money will amplify and strengthen organizations and platforms that keep gender equality at the center of global and national development efforts.

At the conference, governments, nonprofits and funding organizations agreed on a new statement of principles regarding gender data and its importance for accelerating development outcomes.

Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, chief executive of the children’s rights organization Plan International, told reporters that there is a huge data gap when it comes to recording the number of girls under age 15 who give birth each year.

Globally it is estimated over two million girls younger than 15 become mothers each year, and an estimated 70,000 girls aged 10 to 19 die from birth-related complications every year. But the figures are uncertain as official data usually tracks births by women aged 15 to 49 although girls can get pregnant from approximately age 10.

At the Women Deliver conference, Plan International launched a partnership with the International Women’s Health Coalition, the accountancy firm KPMG, ONE Campaign and Women Deliver, to find ways to compile better data on women and girls.

The Gates funding for gender data came just before the first World Humanitarian Summit held May 23-24 in Istanbul, Turkey, where women’s empowerment was a central part of the discussion.

The summit gathered 9,000 participants from 173 UN Member States, including 55 heads of state and government, hundreds of private sector representatives, and thousands of people from civil society and nongovernmental organizations.

In its outcome document, Summit delegates overwhelmingly affirmed an approach that engages communities, civil society and youth, “and for the equal participation of women in leadership roles and peace-building processes.”

There were widespread calls at the Summit for gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s rights to become pillars of humanitarian action. Participants committed to increased programming to enable women and girls to take on roles as leaders and decision-makers.

New methods and new financial support for creating accountability to gender equality programming were announced.

Plans to end tolerance of gender-based violence against women and girls were launched, and commitments were made to ensure the right to sexual and reproductive health care is fulfilled for all women and adolescent girls in crisis settings.

Several participating government officials pledged national measures to enhance the protection of women and girls against sexual violence.

The Summit pledged to leave no one behind in the quest for sustainable development for all.


World leaders and participants across the board affirmed that those most at risk of being left behind – the more than 60 million displaced, particularly women and children, will receive the global attention and support they deserve to live in safety and dignity, with opportunities to thrive.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of the agency UN Women, said the Gates Foundation’s support for data enhancement will be to the benefit of women and girls around the world.

“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development aims ‘to leave no one behind.’ To bring all women and girls to the finishing line in 2030 at the same time as everyone else, we must be able to target them and their needs, and see what progress we are making,” she said.

 “Through our new flagship program initiative, Making Every Woman and Girl Count, pledged Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women commits to supporting countries to improve the production, accessibility and use of gender statistics.”

Main Image: UN Women offers computer training to Internally Displaced Persons living in the Protection of Civilians site 3 in Juba, South Sudan. Students are taught to type, to organize and file computer records, to access and browse the internet, and to send email. (Photo by United Nations Mission in South Sudan) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Image 01: Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at the Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen, May 17, 2016 (Photo courtesy UN Women) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Faetured Image: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (center right) and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with two young participants during the closing ceremony of the World Humanitarian Summit, May 24, 2016, Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Eskinder Debebe / United Nations) Posted for media use.

‘Planet 50-50 by 2030’ Means Gender Equality

IndiaWomenRiceBy Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, March 8, 2016 ( News) – “Women and girls are critical to finding sustainable solutions to the challenges of poverty, inequality and the recovery of the communities hardest hit by conflicts, disasters and displacements,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka of South Africa in her message for International Women’s Day – today.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

As UN under-secretary-general and executive director of the agency UN Women, Mlambo-Ngcuka (pronounced: mlam-bo hu-ka) is living proof.

A member of the first democratically elected South African Parliament in 1994, she rose to serve as deputy president of South Africa from 2005 to 2008, the first woman to hold that position.

The UN agency she heads today was created in 2010 to direct UN activities on gender equality.

“The participation of women at all levels and the strengthening of the women’s movement has never been so critical, working together with boys and men, to empower nations, build stronger economies and healthier societies,” she said.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2016 is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality,” and communities throughout the world are taking steps to let their views be heard.

The official International Women’s Day 2016 website enables visitors to browse or search thousands of events celebrating this unique day: global gatherings, conferences, awards, exhibitions, festivals, fun runs, corporate events, performances, political events and online digital gatherings.

Investment and environment are linked in an event being held both online and in person by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in Washington, DC.

Over breakfast, a Q & A discussion on why and how gender equality and women’s empowerment matter for environmental sustainability will feature participants from the World Resources Institute (WRI), Conservation International, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Bank, among others.

Members of the public can join in via WebEx meeting or join in by phone. Click here for connection details.

The World Bank is hosting a global live chat on a second draft Environmental and Social Framework that bank personnel believe is “better for people, the environment, and for our borrowers.”

The World Bank has consulted in 33 countries on this proposal, and now wants public comments in a live chat with an expert panel from the World Bank. People can submit questions in advance here .

In Europe, health issues are first and foremost.

To mark the day, the civil society network WECF has published “Women and Chemicals,” an examination of the impacts of highly hazardous pesticides, mercury, and endocrine disrupting chemicals on the health of women everywhere.

Initially called Women in Europe for a Common Future, but now using only the acronym WECF, this international network of 150+ organizations works for a healthy environment and gender-justice in over 50 countries.

In the new publication, WECF calls for more political action for better health protection from harmful chemicals.

Corinne Lepage, chair of the WECF Board of Trustees and a former French environment minister, is worried especially about endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which can interfere with the natural hormones in the bodies of not only females, but males as well.

“Although we know about the threat to environment and human health, the EU Commission so far has not been able to regulate EDCs,” Lepage worries.

“In particular women and men who are planning to have children, need to be better protected from and informed about EDCs,” LePage said. “This report is a good starting point to show the linkage between chemical exposure of women and increasing rates of diseases and that political action is needed now.”

Women may be exposed to toxins when they work as pesticide sprayers, waste pickers, house cleaners or plastics industry employees, and, of course, women consume products that contain toxins.

Exposure to toxic chemicals can lead to non-communicable diseases such as breast cancer, infertility or diabetes. These non-communicable diseases are today the biggest global threat to women’s health – and they are still on the rise.

WECF is one of 68 organizations that co-signed a letter to the 28 environment ministers of the European Union urging them to call on the European Commission to immediately comply with the December 2015 ruling of the European Court of Justice in the case of Sweden vs. Commission on scientific criteria to identify endocrine disruptors.

The letter from EDC-Free Europe states, “Scientists, health professionals and medical doctors have increasingly warned that EDCs can contribute to diseases and disorders like hormonal cancers (prostate, testicular, breast), reproductive health problems, impaired child development, and obesity and diabetes.”

WECF’s Alexandra Caterbow demanded, “Immediate steps have to be taken to end use of highly hazardous pesticides, to strictly regulate EDCs such as bisphenol A from consumer products and packaging, to ban mercury use in artisanal small gold mining, and to promote the use of safer substitutes and non-chemical alternatives.”

To celebrate the launch of its report, WECF will be hosting an Ask Me Anything on Reddit where the general public can ask questions on the findings.

Law enforcement for women is rising to the top as an important function to keep women safe.

UN Women, the Police Cadet Academy, Thailand Institute of Justice and the Embassy of Sweden came together to organize the Youth Dialogue on Gender Equality with Police Cadets in Nakorn Pathom, Thailand on March 7.

UN Women has partnered with the Royal Thai Police and the Office of the Attorney General in training police cadets and police investigative officers to protect women, end violence against women and implement the Domestic Violence Law.

Since 2012, UN Women has helped train 555 police officers.

In another part of the world, Palestinian and Israeli activists took part Friday in a demonstration in the West Bank city of Bethlehem calling for a better future for both peoples ahead of International Women’s Day.

On Monday in Jerusalem, victims of sexual abuse hugged each other after taking part in a project to speak out against sexual violence.

Some actions take the form of non-action. The UN Development Program in Afghanistan plans to stop publishing photographs on its website to highlight the plight of Afghan women, a UN official said Sunday.

Many actions today are a pledge of future action for gender parity.

The campaign theme hash tag of #pledgeforparity urges readers to take the pledge as champions of gender parity.

A host of corporate leaders have pledged to achieve gender parity in their own organizations and in the wider world, people such as Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group; and Sir Suma Chakrabarti, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, who said, “Equipping women with the tools to achieve their full potential in the workplace empowers us all.”

Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka – image courtesy of Flicker UN Women Gallery
Header image Caption: Women working in their rice paddy fields in Odisha, India’s poorest region. Trócaire works with communities to help them access government support. (Photo by Justin Kernoghan courtesy Trócaire) creative commons license via Flickr


Honors to Women and Girls Who Feed the World

  • AbedQatar

By Sunny Lewis

DES MOINES, Iowa, October 28, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chair of BRAC, the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, was honored earlier this month as the 2015 World Food Prize Laureate for improving the world’s supply.

And for building one of the world’s largest and most effective anti-poverty organizations.

Sir Fazle is first to acknowledge that the success of BRAC is built on empowering women and girls.

“We have focused attention on women so far because we felt that women could actually play a much bigger role than they have in the past,” Sir Fazle said in his Laureate Address in Des Moines October 16.

“If there is no food in the household and there are children hungry, what is the mother going to do? We deliberately focused our attention on women as change agents in our societies,” he said.

Empowering and educating women and girls has been central to BRAC’s success in confronting hunger and malnutrition and releasing millions of people from poverty in Bangladesh and 10 other countries.

The global reach of BRAC is unique, with more than 110,000 employees around the world, and a further 150,000 BRAC-trained entrepreneurs providing low-cost seeds, medicines and training to their rural neighbors.

“It is difficult to express in words how honored and deeply touched I am by this recognition,” Sir Fazle said upon receiving the award.

“The real heroes in our story are the poor themselves and, in particular, women struggling with poverty who overcome enormous challenges each day of their lives,” he reminded the audience.

“Through our work across the world we have learnt that countries and cultures vary, but the realities, struggles, aspirations and dreams of poor and marginalized people are remarkably similar.”


Sir Fazle, who was knighted by the British Crown in 2009, has grown BRAC from a 1972 wish to help Bangladesh recover from a deadly tropical cyclone and war of independence, until today it employs over 100,000 people, 70 percent of them women.

BRAC now operates 18 financially and socially profitable enterprises, across the health, agriculture, livestock, fisheries, education, green energy, printing and retail sectors.

BRAC enterprises that reduce hunger and poverty are seed production and distribution, feed mills, poultry and fish hatcheries, milk collection centers and processing factories, tea plantations and packaging factories.

These enterprises generate income that is used to subsidize primary schools and basic healthcare.

In these ways, BRAC has been a leader in empowering women and girls through microfinance, education, healthcare, and encouraging their active participation in directing village life.

BRAC has just increased its commitment to girls’ education in low-income countries with a five-year pledge to reach 2.7 million more girls through primary and pre-primary schools, teacher training, adolescent empowerment programs and scholarships.

World Food Prize President Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, a former U.S. ambassador to Cambodia, appreciates the emphasis BRAC give to women and girls.

“At a time when the world confronts the great challenge of feeding over nine billion people, Sir Fazle Abed and BRAC, the organization he founded and leads, have created the pre-eminent model being followed around the globe on how to educate girls, empower women and lift whole generations out of poverty,” said Quinn.

The World Food Prize award ceremony and Laureate Address are part of the annual Borlaug Dialogue, a food security conference named for Norman Borlaug, who was awarded the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for his work to feed the world.


Chelsea Clinton, vice president of the Clinton Foundation, was one of the keynote speakers during this year’s Borlaug Dialogue, held in downtown Des Moines. Her focus was the empowerment of girls and women.

“Women are a crucial, vital and necessary part of solving the challenge of alleviating hunger,” said Clinton, the daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

About 800 million people “aren’t getting the nutritious food they need. And we’re not on track to feed the nine billion people we expect to have on our planet by 2050,” she said.

“We’re squandering our potential,” Clinton said, when we send signals to young girls that their looks are more valuable than their brains.

Through BRAC, Sir Fazle has been a leader in empowering women and girls not through their looks, but through microfinance, education, healthcare, and encouraging their active participation in village life and community cohesion.

“We have always used an approach to development that puts power in the hands of the poor themselves, especially women and girls,” he said. “Educated girls turn into empowered women, and as we have seen in my native Bangladesh and elsewhere, the empowerment of women leads to massive improvements in quality of life for everyone, especially the poor.”

Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

 Featured image: Sir Fazle Hasan Abed speaks at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative, New York City (Photo by Taylor Davidson / Clinton Global Initiative via Flickr)
Slide-show images: A) At the World Food Prize Award ceremony Oct. 16, 2015, from left, Mrs. Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi (2012-2014), Sir Fazle Hasan Abed holds the World Food Prize, John Ruan III, World Food Prize Chairman. (Photo courtesy The World Food Prize) B) His efforts are respected in the Arab world. Here, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed receives the first-ever WISE Prize for Education given by the Qatar Foundation, a windfall of $500,000. From left: Sheikh Hamad bin Khalife Al-Thani, Amir of the State of Qatar; Sir Fazle, Dr. Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani, Chairman of the World Innovation Summit for Education, WISE. Doha, Qatar, Nov. 1, 2011. (Photo courtesy WISE Qatar)
Image 01: Sir Fazle Hasan Abed reads with a girl in Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy World Food Prize)
Image 02: Chelsea Clinton speaks at the C2MTL Montreal, May 28, 2015, Montreal, Quebec, Canada (Photo by Mila Araujo@Milaspage via Flickr)

Women Rule: Why the Future of Social, Sustainable and Impact Investing is in Female Hands

Group of female social investors

By Marta Maretich

In the early days of the social investing movement, women and girls were arguably seen more as program beneficiaries than financial movers and shakers.

Social lenders changed their view when they realized that focusing initiatives like microfinance lending on women turned out to be the most effective way to make whole communities more prosperous. This early insight quickly led to further programs targeting women, including special prizes and support networks for female entrepreneurs and the advent of gender lens investing—an approach to creating female-centred portfolios that puts capital behind women in a more systematic way.

Positive as all this was, things have moved on significantly in the world of social investing. No longer only the beneficiaries of social finance, today women are building a complete ecosystem of social investing that has female financial power at its heart.

Women are wealthy—and socially conscious

Global wealth demographics have their part to play in this trend. Women—or at least some women—are richer now than ever before. And they’re soon to get even richer.

Taking the US as one example, women now control almost half of the estates valued over $5 million and they stand to inherit some 70% of the $41 trillion to be inherited over the next four decades in the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth the world has ever seen. By 2030, roughly two-thirds of the private wealth in the US will be held by women.

This wave of wealth is set to land in the laps of female investors who have been shown to have a more positive attitudes toward social investing than their male counterparts. Half of wealthy women in a recent survey expressed an interest in social and environmental investing while only one-third of wealthy men did. 65% of women thought social, political and environmental impacts were important, as compared to just 52% of men.

Female advisors, step up!

Surveys show that financial firms are not currently meeting the needs of this growing pool of wealthy female clients and many are taking special measures to reach them. Part of the problem is that there are still so few female advisors out there: Only three in 10 advisors are women, according to a 2013 Insured Retirement Institute study, yet 70% of women seeking advisors say they would prefer to work with a woman.

The good news is that the female advisors now at work are already a positive force for social investing. A report by the Calvert Foundation showed female advisors to be more interested in using sustainable investing funds (59%) than their male counterparts (39%). They were more likely to know about alternative investing opportunities and more likely to offer them as options to their clients, too.

More female MBAs?

Boosting the number of women in financial advisory roles could, then, be a way of extending the reach of social investing to more women. But where will they come from?

In theory, a new generation of female advisors is currently learning its trade in business schools around the world. Yet due to what’s often condemned as a male-dominated culture, many MBA programs have poor track records of enrolling and retaining female students and this has the effect of limiting the number of female graduates.

That may now be changing with more business schools making concerted efforts to become more female-friendly in order to attract women students. Some, like Harvard, are actively reaching out to women in an effort to create a more balanced student body. Still others have succeeded and now boast student bodies where females outnumber males. It’s a positive move and, if their efforts pay off, we may see an increased number of female financial advisors starting to come through the system.

When they do, they may well be better prepared to advise on social investments than their predecessors. In a parallel trend, many MBA programs are now offering more training in social, responsible and impact investing to all students, including female ones. This means that more female business graduates will come out with degrees that prepare them to take up active roles in the social investment marketplace.

Women-run investment firms

At the same time, female financial expertise is taking the helm in more direct ways through a growing number of women-run venture capital firms and all-female investor networks. Firms like Cowboy Ventures, Aspect Ventures, Broadway Angels and Aligned Partners are run by women, for women investors.

Their presence in the start-up marketplace disproves the myth that women investors are risk averse. And, even when the firms don’t specifically target women-run businesses, they seem to be having a catalytic effect on female-founded companies: Women-run investment firms reported receiving more pitches from female entrepreneurs because of their networks. As a consequence, a greater percentage of their investments—up to 40% in some cases—have been in companies started by women.

Elsewhere, women are establishing venture funds specifically targeting female entrepreneurs and focusing on female markets. High Note, run by Genevieve Thiers, seeks to will invest in companies run by women who are solving problems for women.

Women in the boardroom — finally!

Female venture capital firms are a good thing for socially conscious female investors, and, from the looks of it, a good thing for female-run businesses, too. But there’s an even more significant advantage to them: they will put more women on the boards of more companies.

How does that work? Increasingly, venture capitalists claim voting seats on the boards of the companies they invest in. With more female VCs, more of those seats will be occupied by women, giving them more influence over the way businesses grow and develop.

There’s no guarantee that the presence of VC women on boards will have a positive effect for social investing — women, after all, can be just as profit-obsessed as men. Yet, given the interest shown by women in using their capital to back social and environmental good, it certainly could. It will also go some way toward correcting the woeful lack of women on corporate governing boards generally. (Other methods, including quotas, are being tried in some countries, including Germany and the UK.)

In social enterprises, the gender picture in the boardroom is slightly more female positive than the norm. Social Enterprise UK’s 2011 State of Social Enterprise Survey found that 86% of social enterprise leadership teams included at least one female director. By contrast, only 13% of the members of the Institute of Directors, a UK organization for corporate board members, are women.

Looking to the future

Capital, expertise and leadership: these are some of the things more female involvement promises to bring to the social investing sector. Female investors, working with female advisors and investment firms, will be able to do more for female social entrepreneurs as well as social businesses who serve the needs women.

This is a long way from women as beneficiaries and it’s all good. But it’s important to point out that it won’t only be women who benefit from women becoming more engaged social investors.

Changes to the gender balance in social investing are part of a wider expansion in the role of women in business and finance. With greater influence, more autonomy, increasing confidence and shedloads of wealth behind them, women are increasingly in a position to change the way the world invests—and do great things for the planet and its people.

Can’t wait to see what happens next.

Asset Managers Need New Skills to Meet Millennials’ Demands for Social, Sustainable and Impact Investing Opportunities


By Marta Maretich @maximpactdotcom

It’s clear: the global investment landscape is changing. Oil, that mainstay of portfolios, is on the slide. Markets long dominated by pension funds and insurance companies are now seeing greater international ownership of companies and the rise of other players such as hedge funds and private equity firms. Investment horizons are shortening. Regulation is increasing.

These factors are creating a challenging climate for financial asset managers who need to adapt to the new realities of a changing investment marketplace.

To make matters more complex, investor profiles are changing, too. As older investors pass on their wealth, a new generation of socially conscious millennial investors are demanding more opportunities to put their money into investments that produce social good and avoid doing environmental damage. The effect of this trend is already measureable, with studies, like this one from Eurosif, showing all sustainable and responsible investment strategies continuing to grow at a faster rate than the broad European asset management market.

This means that, while asset managers are getting to grips with a new financial picture, they’re also looking for ways to serve new kinds of clients. Many of them already see the writing on the wall: in a recent survey by First Affirmative, a financial network, 49% believed that “the needs and interests of younger investors will have to be catered to if the industry is to thrive.” Female asset managers are ahead of the curve, the same study shows, with a higher rate of awareness when it comes to impact, social and sustainable markets and a greater likelihood to already be offering such options to clients.

The age of the “multilingual” asset manager

Change may already be happening, yet the mainstreaming of socially beneficial investing—and particularly impact investing, which has grown faster than any other part of the market—means that asset managers across the industry will need to upgrade their skill sets and become “multilingual” when it comes to creating investment strategies.

Recent thinking about the future of the impact investing sector flagged the importance of the “multilingual leader”—an individual or team with an array of cross-sectoral skills that create the right mix of social commitment an financial know-how to lead beneficial businesses.

The rise of popularity in social and impact investing will demand that asset managers become “multilingual” in a similar way. In this context, multilingualism will mean bringing all the traditional skills of asset management to the table, and adding to these new tools and expertise to meet the demands and opportunities of today’s more diverse marketplace.

But what, specifically, are these new skills and capabilities?

New skills for a new investing landscape

Practices are evolving even as the market for impact, sustainable and social investing expands, but some core competencies have been identified so far.

Familiarity with diverse investment markets: Lack of familiarity with new kinds of investing is often cited as a main reason why many asset managers don’t offer these options to clients. Asset managers with an eye on the future need to familiarize themselves with the ever-growing array of opportunities across the sector. These include private equity impact investing, social investment bonds, ESG screened portfolios, themed funds, and now even electronically traded funds in areas like cleantech, water and edutech.

In a market where innovation is extending the range of options on a daily basis, keeping up can be a challenge. Tuning into the conversation by following the work of leading institutions such as GIIN and the IIPC, websites like GreenBiz , and good twitter feeds such as @pioneerspost  and @IAimpactassets can help newcomers find their way. 30 Must-Follow Twitter Feeds for Impact Investing. For a mainstream take, large media sites like Forbes  and Huffpost and financial publications like The Economist and the FT increasingly cover the social investing trend in terms asset managers can relate to.

Confidence with more information: As digital natives, millennial investors have higher expectations when it comes to communication and transparency, especially where social and environmental impact is concerned. In this, they are in step with a global trend toward more stringent regulation leading to higher demands for disclosure and transparency on the part of companies. Today’s young investor is likely to be more actively engaged than her older predecessor, demanding timely, accurate information on investments to be delivered in a convenient and easy-to-grasp form.

This has a host of implications for asset managers offering socially beneficial investment options to their clients. First, they will need to be able to evaluate the reported data of potential investments accurately and align investor concerns with outcomes in a given strategy. An ability to see beyond claims and accurately judge the quality and reliability of the various reporting practices used by companies will be key. Asset managers will need to choose investments that can deliver a high level of accountability and transparency in both financial and extra-financial performance, for example ones that adopt extended reporting practices and use new standards for sustainability like SASB.

Faster, detailed, two-way communication: Importantly, they will also need to find effective ways to communicate this information to clients more quickly and at every point in the investment cycle.

The practice of annual and quarterly reporting is already being viewed as insufficient by many investors, and real-time, on-demand reporting is now a reality inside some companies. What this will mean for the wider investment marketplace is still not certain, but it’s clear that asset managers will need to be prepared to handle unprecedented levels of information and use it effectively to build strategies and also to communicate with clients.

And they can expect communication to be an increasingly two-way street. With better informed, socially conscious clients wanting more of a say in how their money is invested, the ability to receive and manage investor feedback will be a key skill for asset managers. Satisfying clients will mean keeping pace with their evolving social and environmental objectives and responding quickly to their concerns.

Changing the industry from within

Mainstream finance has made strides when it comes to embracing sustainability, social benefit and impact investing. Driven by government regulation and supported by high profile initiatives like the G8 taskforce, the movement is becoming part of the broader market ecosystem. Industry giant BlackRock’s appointment of Deborah Winshel, a multilingual leader if there ever was one, is one example of a changing mood in finance. Another is the high profile of climate change and sustainability at Davos this year.

Asset managers obviously have an important role to play in giving more investors access to the expanding marketplace for beneficial investing. Their influence, however, goes beyond the purely commercial and is likely to be felt on a deeper level.

Increasingly, asset managers themselves form part of the groundswell toward creating a new kind of financial marketplace. Many are shifting out of traditional investing to take up roles in impact and sustainability. The next generation is demanding more training in innovative financial approaches from their MBA programs, while organizations like GIIN are offering training for professionals already working in the field.

At the same time, inside many large institutions, committed individuals like Harald Walkate of Aegon are quietly at work teaching other asset managers how to build more impact into existing portfolios and how to create investment strategies that maximize social and environmental benefit while delivering profit.

While not a “skill” as such, this new outlook on the part of asset managers may be the most valuable thing they bring to the field of beneficial investing. It will contribute to reshaping the financial landscape and, in highly practical ways, help establish socially beneficial finance as a viable choice for investors of all kinds. For asset managers, this mindset looks set to be one of the factors that will shape their working lives in coming years, demanding from them new skills and new sensitivities and profoundly changing their relationship with markets—and with the millennial clients they serve.

Why the Education Sector Urgently Needs Impact Capital

Afghan SchoolBy Marta Maretich @mmmaretich @maximpactdotcom

The world is crying out for education. For 4,738,116 respondents to the My World digital survey (and counting) “a good education” is, is the overwhelming choice for every age group and every sector for the change that “would make the most difference” to their lives.

The role of education in improving the people’s lives and encouraging economic development is widely recognized, making it a focus for national governments, philanthropic bodies and international development agencies. Increasingly, it’s viewed as an indispensible tool for easing poverty, reducing inequality and boosting economic sustainability. Research has shown that one year of education can increase wages by five to 15 percent, while each year of secondary school raises them by up to 25 percent.

What’s more, quality education for all—including marginalized groups, women and adult learners—can generate huge economic rewards for a country, increasing its gross domestic product per capita by 23 per cent over 40 years.

More investment is needed—right now

There’s little doubt about the value of education. Yet, despite making commitments to Millennium Development Goals in education, the global community has so far failed to come up with the investment needed to hit education targets. While spending on education by low-income countries has increased by an average of 2.9 percent to 3.8 percent of GDP over the last decade rich countries have not stepped up to the same degree.

In 2010 estimates showed that an additional $16 billion per year would be needed just to provide basic education for children, youths and adults by 2015. However, actual spending has hovered around the $3 billion mark annually. The result is a funding gap that has almost doubled in the intervening years. Today, estimates place the annual financing shortfall at a staggering $26 billion.

It now seems likely that the Millennium Development Goal for education will not be reached by the 2015 deadline and there are concerns on the part organizations like Education for All about what will happen to education development post-2015 and in years to come.

In a further development, low-income countries and poor populations aren’t the only ones facing an education crisis. The education systems in rich countries like the US, the UK and Australia, for instance, are also suffering from the effects of squeezed public budgets and skyrocketing costs, especially in the higher education sector. This has left educational attainment rates dropping, especially among poor people and minority groups, over a number of years.   Many would-be students are priced out of access to higher education just when the need for an educated workforce is on the rise.

Innovative finance solutions

So what can be done to help the poorest attain access to quality education and the better-off optimize their access to higher forms of learning? The key, recent research suggests, is to bring more private capital into the sector and to experiment with new kinds of investments that target specific educational problems and meet the needs of specific groups.

In many parts of the world, education has until now been the sole preserve of governments and development aid agencies, but there is evidence that this is beginning to change as new funding approaches — like impact investing— gain popularity and prove their viability. Though governments and development aid agencies will continue to play a central funding role, the education sector is now actively looking for ways to attract private capital, often in the form of impact investment, as a means to fill that yawning $26 billion funding chasm.

Though it’s early days, there’s already evidence that impact finance can be effective in education.  George Soros’ Open Society Foundations have produced some first findings on impact investing in developing countries’ education systems. The results suggest that workable models are evolving on a small scale, often in collaboration with governments, and some are already showing respectable track records of financial return and demonstrable benefit.

These indications are hopeful, yet impact investing in education is still in its infancy. Education accounted for only 3% of the investments of participants in the GIIN’s recent sector survey, a figure that suggests that impact investors have been hesitant to engage in this sector.

The OSF report confirms this image of tentative, early-stage activity in education by impact investors:  “Most deals remain small, and investments in schools currently dominate deal-making, with more innovative technology and management models just beginning to emerge. As yet, few business models deliver strong immediate financial return while reaching the most vulnerable beneficiaries.”

More worrying perhaps is the fact that impact’s involvement in education investing remains split into two camps, according to the report. On the one hand there are impact investors focused on “reaching the lowest income populations without expectation of any financial return”; on the other are investors who expect market rate returns and place capital into deals that “target middle and upper class populations.”

By now, this is a familiar situation for impact, with well-meaning investors in many sectors still struggling to find ways to engage with the middle ground and find models that meet needs while maintaining profitability. Yet, given the pressing global demand for education, there is enormous potential for innovation, both in terms of finance models and in terms of education delivery methods. With more impact engagement—and a renewed commitment by the education sector to finding new ways to finance and deliver good quality education on all levels—there is scope for significant  positive change in which impact investing can play a significant role.

By deepening its commitment to investing in education, the impact community has the opportunity to help solve one of the world’s greatest challenges.In the next blog in this series, we’ll be looking at the places where impact capital has the potential to be most effective in the education sector. As the need for education continues to grow, so will the range of methods and approaches for private capital, including public-private collaborations, an expanded role for impact intermediaries, and new technologies with the potential to deliver education to underserved communities as never before.
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Sustainable Luxury Heroines

Guest contribution by Milena Cvijanovich

Women are undoubtedly the leaders of the fabulously successful new Sustainable Luxury business model. They show us through their amazing results how cool, glamorous, sophisticated AND essentially powerful Luxury can be when it has the mission to respect our planet and life of its inhabitants.

High-profile individuals such as Livia Firth with her Green Carpet Challenge and Francine LeFrak, founder of Same Sky, help break the vicious circle of poverty, discrimination and marginalization through beautiful objects handcrafted by women for a market which can afford to help this change. Unsung heroines such as social entrepreneurs Adriana Marina of Animan; and Aissa Dione, a Senegalese textile designer, are further shining examples of the beauty of this new-found synergy. These businesswomen have brought hope and pride back to their own struggling communities with the highly successful manufacture of exquisite textile and other heritage crafts sold to top designers worldwide.

I’ve collected just a very small sampling of these inspiring women and their contribution to the powerful duo-luxury and women’s empowerment.

Livia Firth, wife of actor Collin Firth, seduced the fashion industry, taking clever advantage of her A-list status to launch the Green Carpet Challenge. Throwing the gauntlet to celeb sand designers to take on eco textiles, she got stellar results: Gucci’s new zero-deforestation handbag line, Valentino’s haute couture eco gowns worn at the Oscars, Mette-Marit, crown princess of Norway’s sustainable Pucci dress at a royal wedding. Eco Age, Livia’s venture, is sky-rocketing with star-studded partnerships. As Livia says, “No one has to wear hemp and sandals” to show eco-awareness. With a wink she makes me feel her soft black dress whispering, “Hemp – by Valentino.”

Francine Le Frak has been a philanthropist practically since her childhood. Well-known in the entertainment industry, she is an award-winning theatrical, television and movie producer and has been recognized as a social issue film producer. In 2008, Francine founded Same Sky, a socially-conscious jewelry venture. The company began in Rwanda to give women who had survived the Rwandan genocide a new chance in life. “My vision for Same Sky is to continue partnering with other like-minded companies in order to build a marketplace for products that are handmade, possess authenticity and support artisan communities around the globe. Ultimately we want to spread the idea that shopping can change the world.”

“The beauty of having a successful business is it gives you a wonderful economic platform from which to do good.” Connie Duckworth, retired Partner and Managing Director of GoldmanSachs, transforms the lives of Afghan women through Arzu Studio Hope, a highly successful social enterprise offering stunning bespoke carpets. Working with renowned designers including Zaha Hadid and Michael Graves, Connie celebrates the art of weaving while bringing education and economic independence to women in a struggling,war-torn country.

While the traditional textile industry was disappearing in Senegal with the influx of foreign products, textile designer Aissa Dione came along, an Amazon in shining armor, and launched in 1992 a company specialized in high-end weaving employing over a hundred people. Attracting international designers such as Jacques Grange, Peter Marino and Christian Liaigre with her exquisite furniture textiles, Aissa is perpetuating the skills of traditional Mandjaque weavers and the processing of local African cottons and natural dyes. Aissa’s graphic transformation of traditional patterns into fusion designs for the Western luxury market has brought economic transformation to her impoverished region.

Sustainable Luxury drives positive change through financially viable, culturally enriching and environmentally respectful business opportunities, empowering women from all corners of the globe to connect at all levels and create profitable (and memorable) ventures.

About Milena Cvijanovich:

Serbo-swiss architect Milena Cvijanovich holds a Masters in Architecture from Carnegie Mellon University in the USA. Founder of MCM Designstudio, an international architecture, design and sustainability consulting firm based in Switzerland, Milena lectures on sustainability and the luxury design world and is active in impact investment and gender equality projects. She is also the founder of the Ethnosphere trademark label to be launched end 2013 with the mission to drive change through design.

[Image credit: 123RF]

Empowering Women Through Impact Reaching a helping hand across the “Pioneer Gap”

by Marta Maretich, Chief Writer,

Women’s financial empowerment has been a hot topic in recent months. There’s a definite (deserved) buzz around gender-lens investing and its potential to make more of impact capital. Yet, while the gender lens approach is an exciting step forward for women’s financial empowerment, it isn’t the whole story.

Impact investing isn’t an island anymore; it’s now becoming part of the financial mainland. By the same token, investing in women happens within the much larger context of the global financial markets on the one hand and the developing impact investing industry on the other.

Looking more deeply into the subject of women and the flow of impact capital reveals a number of areas where the practice of gender lens investing intersects with larger issues in the impact sector. One of these is the sticky issue of supporting impact businesses as they struggle through the”pioneer gap” the tricky mid-stage between startup and market viability.

It’s now clear that women business leaders are a good bet in both financial and impact terms. But when it gets down to choosing investments, practical questions remain: Which female leaders are we really talking about? And which businesses, at which stage?

Doing good vs. making money?

To make the right decisions when it comes to gender lens investing, investors and funds need to come to terms with the fact that the impact investing sector is still a divided marketplace. On the one hand are businesses whose main aim is to do good, especially for the poor; on the other are those whose central goal is market-rate returns. The gender lens, while it helps bring focus in many ways, may not pick up this fundamental difference.

So at which end of the spectrum should we put our capital if our goal is to empower women? The answer is both; plus more in the middle.

There are good options for female-centered investors who want their capital to have the most impact for poor and under served women. Veteran social financiers like Root Capital and Village Capital have reliable track records. Incubator programs, contests and honors for women social entrepreneurs have proliferated across the social benefit finance sector. The enterprises they work with are typically small seed-stage ventures, run by individuals or small teams. They often use microfinance models and with notable exceptions they are often based in the developing world.

On the other end of the spectrum are more impact investments in traditional areas like large-scale infrastructure, renewable energy, real estate and commodities. Today the majority of the more than $4 billion of impact capital is invested these kinds of businesses in developing markets. Very few of them are led by women (as a benchmark, women CEOs run only 4.2% of Fortune 500 companies; only 16% of directors are women). Some of the “new”impact industries, especially tech firms, are among the most male-dominated. And while these businesses may bring benefits to women in a broad sense, their positive impacts tend to by pass the poorest and neediest.

Targeting the missing middle

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with any of this;diversity is one of the strengths of the impact investing sector and the picture is always changing as we learn more. Yet the division points, once again, to a nagging sector-wide issue: the lack of mid-stage businesses with both strong impact credentials and growth potential. This is a crucial problem for female-friendly impact investors.

Recent research has identified some of the factors behind this “pioneer gap”. The main problem is that it’s very difficult for impact businesses to scale up,especially in developing countries where they lack basic market infrastructure, skilled workers and the right kind of capital. Often, there’s support from incubators at the seed stage, but this evaporates as the enterprise gets bigger and its needs become more specialized and complex. Entrepreneurs, whether male or female, struggle to provide leadership at this stage, often lacking key skills or access to expertise or networks that can help them. Many promising impact businesses die here.

For female-focused investors, there’s another issue. The abundance of seed-stage female-led businesses tends to divert attention away from the shortage of investable female-led businesses at the middle stage. The fact remains that many small seed-stage social enterprises, though worthy, will never scale up; some can’t, some simply don’t want to. Yet impact investors; those who are playing for real; need to place capital in businesses that grow, or at least have growth potential.

The disconnect between seed-stage social businesses and growth helps create a hole in the middle of the marketplace where some of the most dynamic investment opportunities should be. More importantly, it can mean that women-centered investments don’t have the transformational effect they should have. Investing in seed-stage women entrepreneurs may bring local benefits, but unless they go on to build organizations and scale their businesses, they will never enter the mainstream global marketplace or reach more beneficiaries. This limits their scope for impact.

Growth-friendly and female-friendly, too

The problem of the missing middle is slowing the development of the impact sector, but it also creates an opportunity for investors and funds. Those who want to focus their capital on women can multiply the benefit of their investments by targeting mid-stage female-led businesses with growth potential.

  • – Make supporting mid-stage impact businesses a priority in your woman-centered portfolio.
  • – Analyze the portfolio: How much investment is going to mid-stage businesses? How much capital is backing intermediaries and accelerators who work with mid-stage businesses?
  • – Partner with impact accelerators and intermediaries who specialize in supporting businesses in the pioneer gap; LGT Philanthropy’s Smiling World Accelerator Program is one example.
  • – Consider women-friendly investments with more modest financial returns: 5% per year or lower. Modest return goals mean mid-stage businesses can benefit from capital without being squeezed by investor expectations.
  • – Create a woman-centered fund backed by philanthropic capital. Rather than channeling philanthropy dollars away from good causes, use them as capital for supporting mid-stage businesses in the pioneer gap, as Acumen does.
  • – Build blended investment funds that combine capital with philanthropic or technical support funding for mid-stage businesses. Sophisticated impact funds, such as the Grassroots Business Fund, are increasingly using models that blend philanthropic with impact capital.
  • – Look outside the social benefit sector for scalable female-led businesses that have positive impacts. Mainstream investments in areas like health, renewable energy, accessible finance,education and biomimicry are all areas where women business leaders are making a mark as well as a contribution. Open deal sites like Maximpact have a range of different kinds of deals in different sectors.

Using gender lens goes some way toward encouraging investment choices that benefit women. By looking more deeply at the nature of these businesses; and meeting their needs at each point in their growth cycle; investors can do even more for women, especially those making the difficult shift from entrepreneur to organizational leader. At the same time they can help build the impact marketplace by nurturing businesses through the pioneer gap. It’s a win-win-win situation for women, investors and the marketplace.

[Image credit: 123RF]

Impactful Empowerment: UnitedSucces

Guest contribution by Yvonne Finch, Director of UnitedSucces

When exploring the words “impact” and “empowerment” it is easy to overlook the true depth of meaning behind the potential for the words when you combine them! Exploring how women throughout the world can be positively affected so that they feel the true benefit of impactful empowerment it is important to explore why women don’t succeed or don’t proceed as fast as expected.

In business it remains a fact that there are not enough women on Boards, that access to finance for a woman to grow her business is a consistent challenge, and acceptance that a woman can juggle the roles of mother, wife, and successful career woman are still questioned.

Getting to grips with why progress seems slow is the key to unlocking the potential of “what might be”. Questions asked of women about how to survive and climb up within the world of business world evoke interesting responses and are often not related to the predicted ones. Concerns about proving competency, even though this is unnecessary, and worrying about how to move to the next level, surface from those perceived to be successful and in all cases there is no proven reality to their thoughts.

So what is wrong? What should women do to bridge gaps? What is the real challenge?

Interestingly everything is fear based. Fear from the individuals of what might happen as a result of some action. If they speak up about development needs could they be seen as incompetent or weak, or if they share their years of knowledge will their job or business be compromised?

How can fear be circumvented? Acknowledging the emotion is the first step forward and once this is accepted it is a small step to find the courage to understand the basis for the fear and to address it. This is where the open and honest support from other women can provide a platform for personal growth.

Choosing a women’s organisation whose members understand the journey being undertaken and where those members are prepared to reach out and share their expertise, life journey or skill is a proven way to overcome some of the paralysis that fear can provoke. Mentoring programmes also add an alternative dimension to understanding and individual growth.

These interventions are based on women being able to access a place of trust. A trusting environment allows individuals to grow at their own pace, safely. And it allows for feedback to be given where barriers to acceptance are negated. Seeking creative solutions to challenges through the support of another has proven to have worth.

When women make the time to engage with each other and put budget aside to join an organisation that exposes them to women in other world geographical locations, they can more easily assess the true relevance of any negative self-talk they may experience.

They can meet women who could become their informal mentors or participate in a more formalised mentoring structure and they can become mentors for others. These actions allow for bench marking of achievements and women learn that it is OK to pat themselves on the back.

Women often live exceptionally busy lives, and are known to work longer hours than their male counterparts, so they will often put themselves at the back of the queue in the opportunity of self development, as they perceive that other commitments should come first. Yet wisdom states that the journey “forward” is far longer when started from the back!

So “impactful empowerment” or “strong liberation” will result when concrete steps towards eradicating fear are achieved, and positive self belief replaces negative self perception.

About UnitedSucces

UnitedSucces is an international business organisation of carefully selected ethical women entrepreneurs. UnitedSucces believes that economically empowered women, who have a support system they can depend on, have a significantly high impact on society, through investing in improved livelihood, health and education of their families and broader communities. By supporting the needs of emerging and established female entrepreneurs, and by sharing best practices of impactful and sustainable female-owned businesses, UnitedSucces aims to empower and support future responsible female leaders assisting them to make a lasting contribution to the communities and countries they operate in. For more information visit:

[Image credit: United Succes]

7 Key Impact Investing Vehicles Targeting Women

By Ana LaRue

Women’s empowerment looks to be one of the transformative economic trends of our time. There is a business case for gender inclusiveness and how investors can work with a gender lens to achieve their investment goals. A wealth of research shows how investing in women around the world produces powerful results that benefit families, communities and entire societies – and on top of all makes for good ROI.

While the flow of significant investment assets toward gender lens investing is still in its initial stages, success of those at the forefront is proving that this trend is here to stay.

In a previous blog post we discussed how to strengthen female leadership and career development across the impact investing sector. We now review what are some of the leading organizations when it comes to investing with a gender lens, where to look for opportunities and resources and what are some of the key investment vehicles specifically targeting women.

1. Female centered networking organizations:

  • 85 Broads – Global network of 30,000 women whose mission is to generate exceptional professional and social value for its members.
  • Catalytic Women – Membership based women’s network funding social impact, at any level and to every issue area.
  • National Council for Research on Women – Network of leading university and community based research, policy, and advocacy centers dedicated to advancing rights and opportunities for women and girls.
  • Empower women – UN’s open global community for knowledge mobilization, innovation and partnerships in women’s economic empowerment.

2. Women’s investing networks and organizations:

3. Organizations working to increase the number of women on boards:

  • 20/20 Women on Boards – National campaign aiming to increase the percentage of women on U.S. company boards to 20% or more by the year 2020.
  • Catalyst – The leading nonprofit organization dedicated to building more inclusive environments and expanding opportunities for women at work.
  • 30% Coalition – Organization that is committed to the goal of women holding 30% of board seats across public companies by the end of 2015.

4. Gender lens centered philanthropy, foundations and endowments

  • Women Moving Millions – Community of individuals who have made gifts and pledges of $1 million or more to organizations and initiatives promoting the advancement and empowerment of women and girls.
  • Women Donors Network – Through member-led Donor Circles, regional events and trainings, and network-wide strategic initiatives, this network gives members the opportunity to connect with key leaders in the social change movement and participate in strategic grant making opportunities.
  • High Water Women – Volunteer-driven organization working with nonprofit partners to identify significant volunteer and grant making opportunities to leverage the talents and aspirations of professional women.

5. Angel investors focused on women-led startups:

  • Pipeline Fellowship – Boot camp for women angel investors, working to increase diversity in the angel investing community and create capital for women social entrepreneurs.
  • Astia Angels – Global network of female and male angel investors that invests in women-led, high-growth ventures in high tech, clean tech, life science, health and wellness products.
  • 37 Angels – Community of female investors committed to funding early stage startups.

6. Investment firms that pursues above market returns through investing in women:

7. Microfinance institutions empowering women in developing countries:

Many microfinance institutions often channel a large percentage of their loans to women. Some examples include:

  • Grameen bank – World’s largest microfinance institution whose more than 90% of clients are women.
  • Women’s microfinance initiative – Microfinance program establishing village-level loan hubs, administered by local women, to provide capital, training and support to rural women.
  • Kashf – First specialized microfinance program in Pakistan to specifically target women.

Read more about Empowering Women through Impact.

Women’s empowerment is an important sector of Maximpact’s network. Log in now to search different Women empowerment focused projects, intermediaries and funds.

[Image credit: nexusplexus, 123RF]

Making the Most of Women Professionals in Impact Investing

7 Steps Toward Strengthening Female Leadership and Career Development Across the Sector

by Marta Maretich

Women are breaking ground in the field of impact investing. The prominence of female leaders such as Jacqueline Novgoratz, Hazel Henderson and Judith Rodin suggests that the field of impact investing will be more gender-balanced than was the case with traditional, male-dominated finance. A recent study demonstrates the value of “multilingual” leadership teams, signalling that diversity and collaboration may be the strongest model for impact leadership. All this is good news for women working in impact.

Yet the sector is young; there’s still far to go before it’s firmly established. As impact moves into a consolidation phase, how can female impact finance professionals (including fund managers, executives and board members) improve their performance and make more of a difference? Findings from a National Council for Research on Women report on women fund managers in traditional finance suggest some practical steps women in impact could; and probably should; take to make the most of their professional lives.

1. Recognize the need to mobilize all available talent. The world faces major challenges: food scarcity, health crises, depletion of natural resources, habitat loss, climate change; all areas impact investing targets. We must draw on the expertise and talent of women as well as men in order to find; and, in the case of impact investing funds, to finance; innovative solutions.

2. Strive for a “critical mass” of women in top jobs. Research in related fields has shown that a critical mass of women in leadership roles changes the dynamics, decision-making and culture of organizations for the better. Impact funds should strive for broadly representative gender mix at the executive, officer and board levels. In the longer term, the impact industry needs to determine what a critical mass of women should look like; and create quantifiable criteria, benchmarks and guidelines for bringing more women into the field. This may be a task for a group of industry leaders, or possibly an organization (not yet formed) for women impact investing professionals similar to Women in Banking and Finance or Women in Finance.

3. Build and expand professional networks.
Traditional finance now boasts a number of female-centered networking organizations including 85 Broads and Golden Seeds. Similarly, female philanthropists have the Women Donors Network and Women Moving Millions. It’s about time female impact professionals had one or more such professional body to support career development, provide mentoring, encourage peer support and facilitate learning. Opening more male-dominated impact networks to women, and inviting more men to participate in women’s networks, have been found to strengthen gender equity in other fields.

4. Promote female fund managers and woman-centered portfolios. Funds can do more to identify and promote successful female fund managers and woman-centered (or gender lens-based) portfolios. Funds should promote both to investors, highlighting research that shows that funds and businesses managed by women perform as well as those run by men when the playing fields are level. Impact investment portfolios aimed at women beneficiaries offer clients an added dimension of benefit. Reaching out specifically to female investors, as the group High Water Women does, is another way to find synergies between investors, female fund managers and portfolios centered on women.

5. Gather and share data on women in impact. Quantifying impact; and sharing fund performance information; are already central principles for the impact sector. Yet, apart from some findings included in ImpactAssets50, there is so far little information on the representation of women in top impact finance and leadership roles. Tracking, monitoring and reporting information about the gender makeup of impact funds will help develop the sector. On another level, collecting information about the performance of women impact executives, fund managers and women-focussed funds will clarify the contribution made to the sector by women; and provide information to improve career development and participation.

6. Nurture the next generation of female impact leaders.
Woman impact professionals need to reach out to the next generation of young female leaders. This means mapping the career path for women in impact, then actively encouraging girls in elementary, high school and higher education to pursue subjects, such as economics, math and business, that make it possible for them to succeed. Shining a light on successful women in the field and using the media to make impact careers more visible to young people have both been shown to increase interest. Mentoring, coaching and providing educational opportunities such as boot camps and internships, are effective, too.

7. Support and fund research. Research may not be a top priority for busy impact investing professionals, but it’s essential for the development of the impact sector; and for the successful participation of women in it. The current buzz around investing in women is in many ways the fruit of research and this should be a lesson for the community of female impact professionals. Research has the power to shape sector development; but research doesn’t happen on its own. Someone (could it be us?) needs to help identify research needs, fund the work and disseminate the findings. Women impact professionals need to step up to this challenge, just as women in other fields have done before them.


Impact investing has always held itself apart from traditional finance, pointing to the ethics, values and commitment to benefit that distinguish the impact movement. Yet as the sector grows and evolves, women impact professionals will confront some of the same challenges faced by their sisters in traditional finance. If they want to lead from the front; and research suggests it’s best for everyone if they do; then they will have to build networks, hone skills and cultivate the career self-awareness that characterizes true professionals in every field.

The impact investing sector supports women in many different ways. Now there’s a chance for it to demonstrate its support for the professional women who make impact happen.

[Image credit: mfrissen, Flickr]

View Women’s empowerment impact deals.

From Philanthropy to Impact Investing: The Role of Women Investors in Asia

By Weina Li

There is a historical gender-bias in investment and finance, with women often considered “too soft” and “not enough returns-focused”, whereas their comparative strengths in leadership positions and their importance as key consumer is often overlooked. This explains the extremely low proportion of women investors across the globe, and especially in Asia.

However, the trend is changing. This is in part due to the increasing number of female high net worth individuals; they are high breadwinners, entrepreneurs but also heirs of a considerable proportion of Asia’s wealth. Even more important, is the increasing number of educated women in Asia. According to a 2008 survey, more than half of women with business degrees out-earn their husbands. This is especially true in countries such as Bangladesh, where more and more women gain access to higher education, achieve higher income and bring the region one step closer to inclusive growth and sustainable development. What’s more, women have become savvy investors. Research shows that 70% of married women fire their financial professionals within one year of their husband’s deaths.

For impact investing in Asia, this is good news. IIX Shujog’s database shows that women investors are more socially-minded and tend to focus on more human-centric investments such as health and education, rather than technology-focused energy businesses. Most importantly, women’s strong relationship with philanthropy means that they tend to donate more of their wealth to philanthropic means than men. As the world’s attention turns towards the development potential of social capital markets in the region, this creates an opportunity of transferring large amounts of wealth from the philanthropy sphere into impact investing.

There are still a number of challenges. Studies show that at present, women investors tend to take money for impact investing from their traditional investment buckets instead of decreasing their philanthropy dollars. This is due to the limited knowledge and lack of confidence in impact investing, exacerbated by the lack of familiarity of traditional financial advisors in this new field. There is also a lack of tools to help investors decide how and where to invest.

To fully capitalize on the potential of women in impact investing, more effort is needed to help provide the information women need to become confident impact investors. Shujog and IIX are working together to translate this need into action in Asia through investor education, knowledge building and developing appropriate investment tools to help more women become key contributors of Asia’s social capital markets.

About Weina Li

Weina Li is the head researcher at Impact Investment Shujog, a Social Enterprise seeking to foster growth, maturity and innovations to the SE and Impact Investment sectors of Asia. Weina has extensive experience working with SMEs and Social Enterprises across the globe. Among other projects, Weina has led an impact assessment project in the Peruvian Andes, working with Alpaca farmers to help them enhance their economic capabilities and setting up a women’s handicraft social enterprise. She is now spearheading Shujog’s research projects on women and impact investing. Weina has a BSc in Environmental Policy and Economics from the London School of Economics and a MSc in Environmental Change and Management from the University of Oxford.

This article was first published on The Story Exchange and is distributed with the permission of the writer.

[Image credit: 123rf]

The Role of Impact Investing in the “New Philanthropy”

By guest contributor Virginie Issumo

The new style of philanthropy sits at the crossroads of entrepreneurship, finance and public interest. Its growing status in economic, social and financial activities becomes more and more evident. The size of some of today’s philanthropic contributions; sometimes higher than the budgets of whole countries; coupled with the increasing number of high-net-worth individual philanthropists in India, China, the Middle East and Latin America, demonstrates the efficiency of public interest initiatives from private donors or responsible investors. They act in partnership with public institutions or, in some cases, substitute for them in education, health, infrastructure and entrepreneurship programs as well as in humanitarian and environmental emergencies.The potential for impact investment is huge because it represents commitments in terms of corporate social responsibility. Also, it answers demands from investors looking for true economic efficiency and human and material traceability. This appeals to the powerful philanthropists of today and has the potential to change the way they offer their wealth for the benefit of others.

Ethics and sustainability are key for givers

Wealthy families relate their governance and management criteria to ethics and sustainability. For this reason, bankers, advisors and industrial counterparts need to design offers that address these requirements based on concrete and understandable investments that comply with their values; this, of course, includes impact investing opportunities. If they don’t, they will simply be excluded from the market.

Concretely, a traditional financial center has a unique opportunity to sustainably attract wealth, whether from private or collective funds, both in investing in enterprises as well as projects profitable for the people, nature and thus for the business.

Corporate endowments, sovereign wealth funds, charitable foundations or trusts, as well as the individual savings of residents and non-residents, are collectively worth trillions of euros. The risk that banks and other financial service providers will see their clients refusing ethical investments and changing banks is slight. An ethical way of living, consuming and investing is therefore no longer just an option or a trend: It has become the sine qua non of the investment landscape.This means that in 20 years we could still be enjoying the same economic and energy comfort we have today.

“An ethical way of living, consuming and investing is therefore no longer just an option or a trend: It has become the sine qua non of the investment landscape.”

Climate change galvanizes the sector

The global reaction to the issue of climate change poses on example of the trend toward a new attitude toward finance and impact. Though it may have once seemed academic, something discussed by experts at unsuccessful summits, climate change is now something an investor, a corporation or an entrepreneur may consider as a main element of his marketing strategy.

Climate change is no longer merely a parameter for creating derivatives or increasing insurance premiums.It is now an impetus to produce more with less energy and to reduce as much as possible one’s carbon footprint. Benefits from a clean and respectful approach to production outweigh the expenses generated by reputational risk and natural disasters, which are set to increase, according to recent research by the IPCC.

A responsible producer of iron, clothes or tomatoes now needs to take many things into account in his or her production of services and goods: The use of renewable energy, the human and material costs and the cost of each component; especially of precious resources such as water. A cup of coffee requires about 120 liters of water, the cost of which should be supported by the final consumer and not local farmer in Burundi or Ecuador alone. Countries with strong philanthropic traditions that offer the right tools to organize, maintain, develop and transmit wealth, could take the lead in proactive philanthropy. We all need to focus on new ways of investing, living and producing, to create jobs, protect our environment and create a more complete sense of global well-being.

About Virginie Issumo:

Virginie is a trained lawyer with over 22 years experience in law, finance and philanthropy. Her focus is the impact economy and its role in the sustainable development of Africa, particularly its potential to support entrepreneurship by women and female leadership. Virginie is a member of organizations including the Polar Foundation, Expertisa, Women Role in Philanthropy, Coup de Pouce and Green Mango. She has developed programs in ecology, organic agriculture, literacy and management in the Republic of Congo. She has worked in collaboration with organizations including the University of Luxembourg, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and the International University of Monaco.

[Image credit: Courtesy of Virginie Issumo]

Weekly Deals: Empowering Women

Empowering women250

This week’s spotlight deals focus on Women’s empowerment.
A recent report explored the problems of under-investment in women-led small and growing businesses and found that there is a gap in financing available. The finance that does exist is especially difficult for women to access. On the other hand, impact investors have an opportunity to support women-led businesses, but they often lack information and access to quality deals.

Three of the latest deals from our Women’s Empowerment sector show that opportunities do exist, if you know where to look for them:


Indigenous women may have experience in entrepreneurial activities such as handicrafts, but they have historically been excluded from bank credit. This often limits their possibilities of growth due to lack of working and investment capital. This project links indigenous women to working capital credit and markets in the Guatemala region in order to promote production and commercialization of handicrafts and other economic activities. The project uses a validated credit methodology used for more than 10 years in the local Credit Union, to establish a revolving credit fund to provide the women with credit at market rates.

This project is currently seeking strategic partnerships and an investment of $ 150,000.


This company manufactures exotic sauces and vinaigrettes utilizing only locally sourced, native Colombian ingredients. The business sources all of its ingredients from a local network of approximately 100 smallholder farmers. The company employs primarily women, currently having a direct impact on 15 local families. They are now looking to expand their operations with the goal of further increasing their impact on the local community.

The company is currently seeking investment of $ 500.000 to $ 650.000.


This organization facilitates awareness, assistance and entrepreneurship in a manner that will not only provide support to women but ensures a sustained and self-aided livelihood in cash or kind. The organization has created a livestock exchange model. Women first pay an annual membership fee of Rs. 1500, based on which every woman is given a goat and a lamb, totaling to a worth of Rs. 15,000. The woman also agrees to give back half the number of young produced by her animals every year for three years. These kids and lambs are collected at the goat farm, where they are bred for further loaning or sale in the market, continuing the cycle.

For every goat or lamb owned by a member of the group, the equivalent value of money can be loaned at any given moment in exchange for the livestock. This means that the goats function as a ready cash exchange for the women. The project has the opportunity for further scalability through an online platform. Online, individuals can raise money, adopt a goat or lamb and see the progress and social development of the women and their families. In return, the amount raised is returned with interest.

This project is currently seeking investment of $ 55.000.

To explore other Women’s Empowerment deals, log in to Maximpact. Not a member? Register now.

Interested in the latest Women’s empowerment sector resources? Access them through the Newsstand.

[Image credit:123rf]




Tell us more – what is mavia?

mavia is a social finance and philanthropy advisory firm based in Zurich.

We strive to increase positive impact for our clients and their beneficiaries by creating transparency and bridging the gap between people wanting to engage in positive change and adequate, high quality investment and philanthropy opportunities for impact.

We offer our clients independent, personal and professional advice in strategic philanthropy by creating strong and trusted relationships with them as well as with our network partners. In this way we ensure consistent mission alignment from planning the whole way through to implementation of a personal philanthropy journey.

Who is the typical mavia client?

There is no such thing as “the typical mavia client”. Our clients are as diverse as people can be – each one with different motivations, values and needs. We deliberately chose to have a diverse advisory board, to represent that kind of individuality with different cultures, religions, interests and background. What our clients have in common though, is that they are all personalities looking for opportunities to make a real difference through philanthropy or social investments. They all have a “Passion for Impact” that drives their decisions and engagements.

Can you give an example of a mavia engagement?

One of our clients is a medium size foundation based in Switzerland. The foundation supports projects in Switzerland through traditional grant giving according to its mission and thematic focus. Together we are working out a strategy on how to include impact investing in the existing activities. This decision influences a foundation on different levels, from service offering, to internal know-how but also culture. It is very important to ensure that change is introduced gradually and in line with the foundation’s mission. The first impact investment with our client is planned in the next 12 months; a great opportunity to learn together and go new and innovative ways.

Another example is an institutional client in the financial services industry. Our client is interested in adding philanthropy to the existing service offering, for reasons of client retention, business development and corporate responsibility. We advised to base decisions regarding additional services on insights from a client survey instead of setting something up and risking to miss the target. In this case we collaborate with a partner, who is specialized in conducting surveys to measure and evaluate “soft” factors. This way the client has a meaningful data set as a basis for his decisions about additional products and services, which make sense to be set up in the future.

Last but not least we are working with a wealthy private client who is not new to charity but rather new to strategic philanthropy and wants to include the next generation in this process. As we work on the Philanthropy Canvas, an easy and straight forward working tool developed by mavia and inspired by, we talk about basic values and interests that drive many money related decisions. This is a great opportunity to understand the other one’s views and needs. The outcome here is not necessarily family philanthropy, it can be of course, but it is also possible to have separate engagements and to exchange experiences and learning within the family on a regular basis. One of our clients once said: “I don’t see the need for everybody in the family to be involved in everything. Because not everybody has the same skills and time and quite frankly you can end up making things far too complicated when you have to consider everybody’s interests, commitment and agenda.”

What makes mavia different?

We give honest and direct advice at any time. In everything we do we try to foster clarity and simplify rather than making things more complicated. We believe that this leads to more joy and fulfillment for our clients, who then again choose to engage in philanthropy for the long term and this increases positive impact.

For us it’s about transforming good intention into a meaningful journey for our clients and to be part of the success story of philanthropy. A story of positive change and growth, that leaves us with a smile on our faces.

Enjoy your impact journey and engage!

About Maximpacts Womens Empowerment Sector

about maximpacts womens empowerment sectorWomen are an immense resource for social change. It has been proven with countless statistics that women’s collaborative actions are a prerequisite for the fight against poverty and human rights. UN Women, the UN Global Compact, the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, and other agencies provide findings that demonstrate that gender diversity helps business perform better and that achieving the Millennium Development Goals requires a rapid integration of gender equality.

Our new and exciting sector of action entitled Women’s Empowerment provides a platform area for two categories in particular:

1. Women who create impact through investment

Business women around the world who appreciate the economic, political and social position they have achieved, are harnessing their experience, status and financial power to promote social responsibility and environmental preservation. Women in impact investment are becoming a powerful group which is accelerating change. Their understanding of issues such as discrimination, marginalization and exclusion often lead to an emphasis in striving for gender equality, human rights and poverty alleviation. But women’s impact investment goes beyond these areas to include a splendid array of support for green tech, clean tech, eco tourism and venture philanthropy. In the Women’s Empowerment sector, women investors can join to amplify the impact they already make as individuals or smaller groups.

2. Projects helping women

Women are half the world’s population, working two thirds of the world’s working hours, receiving 10% of the world’s income and owning less than 1% of the world’s property.

Unfortunately, in many parts of the world women do not have enough rights and resources to change their situation. In fact, the problem is so enormous that it has given rise to one of the 8 UN Millennium Goals: No.3 Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women. The Women’s Empowerment sector offers a pool of compelling projects to help women in the progress towards poverty alleviation, health care, education, child care and in general to improve their daily lives. For women poverty often does not only mean scarcity and need. It is unfortunately often coupled with denied rights, reduced opportunities, no voice or decision-making, tough physical conditions and violation of their dignity. A wealth of projects are blossoming on Maximpact ready to help alleviate these circumstances and give a new, brighter future to struggling women around the world. Sectors of Focus.

Spotlight Deal: Wello WaterWheel

spotlight deal wello waterwheel

The case of the Wello WaterWheel, now listed on Maximpact’s Intermediary Portal, shows how fast a good idea can catch on, attracting enthusiastic users, collaborators and investors from an early stage.

WaterWheel is an innovative water delivery system that provides a way for people to transport large amounts of drinking water with much less effort. Rather than lugging heavy containers by hand, users push the WaterWheel’s 50 liter barrel in front of them using a convenient handle. The device was designed through an immersive, human-centered design process involving target users and experts in the field. The result is a robust, adaptable system that makes it easier for people, especially women and children, to convey needed water cleanly and efficiently, even over rough terrain.

The WaterWheel is designed to deliver more than water. By giving people easier access to potable water the device frees up valuable time, removes barriers that prevent children from going to school and empowers women to engage in more productive activities. The WaterWheel is also a potential income-generating tool for its target users, giving them a way to help lift their families out of poverty.

After nine months of extensive research and field testing,the latest model of the WaterWheel is now in production. Wasting no time in its efforts to get this technology into the hands of the people who need it, Wello is currently busy raising funding to deliver its technology on a broader scale. Investors have been quick to recognize the WaterWheel’s impact potential, both in social and financial terms: Wello is now just short of meeting its fundraising goals; yet it is still looking for funding to unlock a secured matching grant.

Wello is also using its Maximpact listing to reach out to collaborators. “We’re in the process of building Wello’s board right now,” says founder and CEO Cynthia Koenig. “We’d love to hear from people with expertise in the following fields: legal, finance and accounting, advertising and marketing, mechanical and industrial engineering, fundraising, and working with large international NGOs and other institutions. I’m also looking for business mentor who can provide high-level advice and guidance as we expand.”

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