In many emerging economies, women start businesses at a faster rate than men, thereby contributing to economic growth. Yet research shows (PDF) that a disproportionate number of women-owned businesses in developing countries are micro, small, or medium enterprises that—for myriad reasons, including legal and financial obstacles—do not develop into larger-scale, job-generating firms.

Addressing the barriers women entrepreneurs face in growing their businesses, IFC works with clients to improve the business enabling environment, provide access to capital, as well as leadership training, market access, peer networks, and business management skills.

These are some of IFC’s initiatives to support women entrepreneurs:


Financial Investment Group

IFC has invested more than $1 billion in private-sector banks via its Banking on Women program and has provided advisory services to banks that want to better serve the women’s market. We enable financial institutions to better address the needs of women-owned small and medium enterprises.

The case study of Habib Bank Limited in Pakistan, the country’s largest bank, evaluates the impacts of gender intelligence training on perceptions of women as customers, leaders, and employees, and demonstrates sales growth as a result of gender intelligence.




Women Entrepreneurs Opportunity Facility

In partnership with Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Women initiative, IFC launched the Women Entrepreneurs Opportunity Facility. The facility will provide up to $600 million to improve access to capital for approximately 100,000 women entrepreneurs.


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.


SME Finance Forum

The SME Finance Forum is a global network for knowledge-sharing and promoting best practices that help increase access to finance for small and medium-sized enterprises. The Forum provides a strong base for on- and off-line services, including a comprehensive website, announcements of events, and an active LinkedIn Group. The G-20 countries’ Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion launched the Forum under IFC Management.


Bank of Palestine Strengthens Women-Owned Businesses and the Economy
Case Study (English/Arabic) and Full Evaluation Report

The case study and report of Bank of Palestine in West Bank and Gaza, the economy’s largest Bank, highlight the results of the Felestineya Mini-MBA program. This first-of-its-kind program by BoP combines access to tailored financial products with nonfinancial services, including networking, mentoring, coaching, and business information to boost the growth of women-owned small and medium enterprises and achieve business results for the Bank. 


Investment-Climate Reform

In collaboration with the World Bank, IFC developed a guide for governments and the private sector to ensure that entrepreneurs can more easily register their businesses, own property, pay taxes, resolve disputes, and trade across borders. Additionally, the World Bank Group produces Women, Business and the Law, an analysis of global data on laws and regulations that affect women’s prospects as entrepreneurs in 189 economies.



Globally, the socioeconomic status of women, their decision-making ability, and their power to influence household spending is increasing. Women now tend to earn more and have better control of their assets, helping their families and communities prosper—while contributing to overall economic growth. Yet, despite these advances, women’s ability to mitigate financial risk for themselves, their families, and their assets remains low.  The Insurance industry can play a major role in addressing this gap and earn up to $1.7 trillion by 2030 from women alone—half of it in just 10 emerging economies if they target women, according to IFC’s 2015 SheforShield Report. Hence, IFC is partnering with the private sector to better serve the market and increase women’s financial protection and risk mitigation mechanisms. Together with insurers, IFC creates targeted solutions to address women’s needs at every lifecycle stages, while creating income generating opportunities for women as insurance agents and distributors.

IFC also partners with other stakeholders such as GIZ, the German development agency; BMZ, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development; A2ii, Access to Insurance Initiative; and Women’s World Banking to further increase knowledge on the business rationale for expanding insurance coverage for women. IFC collaborated with its partners to produce recently a collection of  notes and case studies, Mainstreaming Gender and Targeting Women in Inclusive Insurance: Perspectives and Emerging Lessons, covering a number of themes related to demand and supply of insurance products for women. We also work with the Chartered Insurance Institute to further promote peer-to-peer learning within the insurance industry.


Examples of What We Do

Investing in Women: New Evidence for the Business Case

Women Entrepreneurs: Essential for Private-Sector Development (PDF)

Striving for Business Success: Voices of Liberian Entrepreneurs (PDF)

Case Study: Boyner Group's Supply Chain Strengthens Women in Business (PDF)

Longer Version: Boyner Group's Supply Chain Strengthens Women in Business

Investing in Women in Agribusiness

Case Study: Kenya's Solar Lighting Entrepreneurs (PDF)

Related Links


Closing the gender finance gap: Three steps firms can take

The gender gap in financial inclusion and the 2014 Global Findex