Women entrepreneurs at a sewing workshop, where they share their skills and knowledge, and are encouraged to polish their techniques to create commercial products for sale.

Photo by: Iwan Bagus/ IFC

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 (2022). 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 small and medium entreprises (WSMEs) by providing the tools and resources they need to enhance their confidence, capacity, capital, community, and access to contracts.

IFC's Response

Banking on Women

As of June 2021, IFC’s Banking on Women business has mobilized and invested over US$3 billion in financial institutions, specifically to finance women-led SMEs. Since its launch, IFC’s Banking on Women business has been providing financial and business solutions to women-led SMEs through its financial institution partners, with 165 investment and advisory services projects in 63 countries, and an estimated 47% of the projects are in IDA and Fragile and Conflict-Affected (FCS) countries.

Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi)

We-Fi, launched in 2017, is a collaborative partnership among the 14 governments that have made financial contributions, six multilateral development banks that serve as implementing partners, 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, as well as increasing the capacity of women entrepreneurs to run high-growth businesses.

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.

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 by 2023 in four countries. Sourcing2Equal Kenya is the first country project under the global Sourcing2Equal Program.

Learn more about IFC's efforts to boost inclusive supply chains through this factsheet.


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.

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. In partnership with Bank of Palestine in West Bank and Gaza, IFC undertook Felestineya Mini-MBA program—whose results are highlighted in the case studies, English/Arabic, and the Full Evaluation Report. IFC partnered with the Boyner Group in Turkey, which is country’s largest retail corporation, to develop the ‘Supply Chain Women Entrepreneurs Empowerment Program’.