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Europe, Middle East & North Africa

At IFC-World Bank Event, Businesswomen Highlight Real Progress, Remaining Challenges

Not so long ago, it was like searching for a needle in a haystack. But today, there is a growing number of women in leadership positions at successful businesses across emerging Europe. “The business community is getting used to this reality,” says Ilinca Rosetti, CEO of ProCredit Bank Romania. “One of the biggest challenges a businesswoman faces in these times is a private one: namely the successful combination of private and business life.”

Rosetti, a mother of four children, was among 30 female CEOs, bankers, and entrepreneurs joining IFC’s fourth annual women’s day event for Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. At the March 1stevent, organized by IFC and the World Bank to highlight International Women’s Day, business women and men shared their experiences and their ideas for achieving gender equality.

“Gender balance in the workplace translates into better organizational health and financial performance, so I am a supporter of equal chances for women and men,” said Francois Rantrua, Romania and Hungary Country Manager for the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development. “I am also proud that the World Bank and IFC can bring together such success stories of women in business.”

The region has seen many women rise to leadership positions in recent decades but challenges remain, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. A forthcoming regional report, conducted by IFC in partnership with Vital Voices and the MENA Businesswomen Network, reveals that 52 percent of women business owners in the region meet their capital needs through private sources, such as personal savings, family, and friends rather than by accessing commercial credit.

Just 18 percent of respondents had a commercial bank loan, and only 10 percent had a business line of credit. IFC is helping address such challenges across the region with products and services that increase access to finance and improve the skills of women in business.

IFC is helping address this and other challenges in the Europe and Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa region with products and services that increase access to finance and build capacity and skills of women in business. IFC helped Lebanon’s BLC Bank launch an initiative delivering a range of services tailored to women-owned businesses. The first Banking on Women investment in the region was done in Romania in September 2011 with Garanti Bank. More gender finance deals have followed in Turkey and Georgia.

“Access to finance remains the primary challenge for women in business in Romania and elsewhere,” says Ana Maria Mihaescu, IFC’s Representative for Romania, Bulgaria, and Moldova. “Our work with Garanti Bank and other clients is leveling the playing field and creating real opportunity for women entrepreneurs.”

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