We can transform markets by helping women harness their economic potential.
Jobs in the chemical industry generally pay well. In India, however, women have historically been locked out of the market—on the assumption that they can’t work safely in such a setting.
Working with our client Meghmani Organics, IFC set out to prove that wrong. In 2008, we helped Meghmani set up its first chemical plant with women employees. With our assistance, the company established policies that better met the needs of women employees at its new FineChem factory—including flexible work hours and special health and safety requirements. It also created separate locker rooms and shower facilities for women.
The results have been noteworthy, setting an example for other chemical companies in India. About 45 women now work at FineChem, many of them from villages near the port city of Dahej, Gujarat. The company found that women were just as capable at their jobs as men—and also more productive and attentive to safety rules. The women, for their part, enjoyed stable jobs, higher incomes, and empowerment in their homes and villages.
Women are a powerful source of economic growth and opportunity. In developing countries, they account for about a third of small and medium enterprises—the engine of job creation. They make up 40 percent of the global workforce. By expanding opportunity for women in their roles as entrepreneurs, employees, consumers, and stakeholders, we can transform local and global markets.
We increase access to finance for women entrepreneurs. We dismantle barriers to women in business. We work with our clients to improve working conditions for women. We work with local chambers of commerce and other partners to provide business and management skills training to women entrepreneurs.
In Egypt, for example, we worked with Cairo Investment and Real Estate Development to conduct a corporate governance review, encouraging the company that runs the country’s largest private network of schools to add women to its board of directors. Based on our recommendation, the company diversified its board of directors. The result was a significant improvement in board effectiveness, the company reported.
Since we launched our Banking on Women program in late 2010, IFC has invested more than $78 million in support of women-owned small enterprises in Eastern Europe and East Asia, building on our experience in Sub-Saharan Africa. Overall, our clients provided about 760,000 jobs to women in 2011. We invested $200 million in the new Global SME Finance Facility, which over its 10-year lifetime is expected to provide financing for 600,000 small businesses—a quarter of which will be women-owned.