Focus Area

Promoting Women Entrepreneurship

We work with firms and investors to increase access to new markets for women-owned and led businesses.

Women play a critical role in the global economy as entrepreneurs. They help create jobs, generate income, and boost revenue—driving economies while reducing inequalities between women and men. In many emerging economies, women are starting businesses at a faster rate than men, significantly contributing to the economic growth.

Yet women face greater obstacles, compared with men, in almost all spheres of economic activity—from access to finance and assets to technology and peer-to-peer networks. On average, women have just three-fourths of the economic rights afforded to men, according to the World Bank Group’s Women, Business and the Law report (2023). In some countries, women cannot register a business, sign a contract, or open a bank account.

Access to financial and nonfinancial services is one of the key barriers for women. An IFC study noted that the SME finance gap for female entrepreneurs in developing countries at $1.48 trillion. The private sector’s role is indispensable to bridge the gap.

That’s why IFC works with the private sector to improve the business environment, provide access to capital, as well as leadership training, market access, peer networks, and business management skills. We help promote women-owned and led, micro, small, and medium enterprises (WSMEs) by providing the tools and resources they need to enhance their confidence, capacity, capital, community, and access to contracts.

Entrepreneurship Programs

Banking on Women

As of June 2023,  IFC’s Banking on Women business has mobilized investment, and provided advisory expertise to its financial institutions partners with a cumulative 251 investment and advisory services projects in 76 countries, resulting in $10.05 billion investments for financial institutions targeting women, with $4.29 billion specifically dedicated to financing women-owned/led SMEs. An estimated 38% of the projects are in IDA and Fragile and Conflict-Affected (FCS) countries.

Sourcing2Equal Global Program

Sourcing2Equal is an IFC-led global program launched in 2019 in partnership with the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) and the Government of Norway. The program seeks to connect thousands of women entrepreneurs to new market opportunities via corporate procurement. Sourcing2Equal Kenya launched in 2021 and Sourcing2Equal Colombia in 2023.

She Wins

She Wins is an IFC -led program designed to unlock the potential of hundreds of women-owned startups by offering them advice, training, mentorship, and improved access to finance. IFC launched She Wins Arabia  in 2021 and She WINS Africa  in  2023. The programs also provide gender-smart investing training for funds, accelerators, and venture capital investors to help accelerate investments in women-led startups.

Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi)

We-Fi, is a collaborative partnership among the 14 governments, six multilateral development banks, and other public and private stakeholders. We-Fi invests in programs and projects that help unlock billions of dollars in financing to address the full range of barriers facing women entrepreneurs—increasing access to finance, markets, technology, and mentoring, while also strengthening policy, legal and regulatory frameworks.

As one of the We-Fi Implementing Partners, IFC’s work with We-Fi supports private sector clients with investment and advisory services to expand financial services and market access for women-owned and led businesses.


Invest2Equal, is an IFC-led program launched in 2022 in partnership with the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), that brings together IFC portfolio fund managers to make specific, measurable, and time-bound commitments to increase gender diversity within their firm and/or investment processes.

Scale X

IFC and the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) launched IFC ScaleX - a global program which aims to increase access to early-stage risk capital for women-led startups in emerging markets.

Women Entrepreneurs Opportunity Facility (WEOF)

In partnership with Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Women initiative, IFC launched the WEOF in 2014 - the facility to increase access to finance to as many as 100,000 women entrepreneurs in emerging markets. IFC uses WEOF funds to provide investment and advisory support, in line with Blended Finance principles. Learn more about WEOF through the progress report.

Women's Entrepreneurship Training

IFC's women's entrepreneurship training helps strengthen the management skills of owners, managers, and staff of small and medium enterprises. The training includes online and off-line modules on leadership, finance, and management. It also enables women entrepreneurs to flexibly tap into the knowledge of their peers and to receive business coaching. 

Women Entrepreneurs in Distribution and Retail

IFC advances gender equality in distribution and retail networks across sectors including on digital platforms. IFC provides recommendations to clients to help close gender gaps and provides training to women entrepreneurs. Learn more in IFC’s Inclusive Distribution learning brief.


Startup Catalyst

Startup Catalyst is a platform designed to invest in incubators, accelerators, and seed funds supporting innovative early-stage startups in emerging markets through mentoring, networking, and funding. 

Evangelia Tsiftsi
Communications Specialist, Gender and Economic Inclusion
+1 202-473-4159