Financial advice for women

April 27, 2010

Do women need special financial advice? A new article in the New York Times argues they certainly do! As the author points out, women live longer, earn less, and take more breaks from the workplace to care for children or family members. These considerations all contribute to the fact that women end up with smaller balances, despite their slightly higher overall savings rates.

To address their specific financial concerns, a small cottage industry of advisers has sprung up – with books, blogs, and websites all geared to dispense financial wisdom to women. We’ve already reported on a fun new website The New York Times article suggests several new books that appear useful too, as well as in-person seminars and meetings organized through groups such as Citigroup’s Women & Co. Many of our GBA members offer just such services too – so do check out their websites for specifics!

Female talent in emerging markets

April 23, 2010

The issue of how woman can further business goals is emerging markets is getting increasing attention. Companies around the world are realizing the potential of both furthering their business interests as well as contributing to social and community development by focusing on women. Initiatives such as the World Bank’s Private Sector Leaders Forum bring together companies eager to share lessons and do more to empower women.

New research is also helping bolster the case for action. For example, a new study “In Plain Sight: Female Talent in Emerging Markets” uses surveys, focus groups, and comparative data to assess the potential of women in Brazil, Russia, India, China, and the United Arab Emirates. The authors have just published an article summarizing the main findings in the Harvard Business Review. They focus on the need to find and nurture the untapped female talent. Forbes Magazine has recently interviewed the authors, and you can read the transcript here.

Why are there so few women in technology?

April 19, 2010

Even though women-owned businesses account for 40% of all privately held firms, they create only 8% of venture-backed start-up companies. A new article in the New York Times explores the reasons why women have such difficulties raising money for their start-ups.

Hurdles for women start with education. After all, men still outnumber women in engineering classes, even though women are now the majority of overall college graduates. Networks can also play a powerful role. Venture capitalists mostly come from business schools and start-ups, arenas where females are under-represented. As a result, women often have a harder time gaining insider access. Moreover, just 14% of venture capitalists are women, and people are often more comfortable working with those of their own sex.

Given that web start ups often attract more female than male users, and given the research demonstrating the benefits of diverse thinking, the benefits of investing in women should be clear. There are a number of organizations now catering to women in tech, including Astia, Girls in Tech, or the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and Executives. They promote women’s start ups and raise awareness of the continued gender disparities in the field. Fortunately, things are starting to slowly change – but is the pace of change fast enough?

Banking on women in India

April 7, 2010

Bihar is one of India’s poorest states where 36 of its 83 million people live in poverty. And almost 2.3 million poor are exposed to large debts, with food, health and education accounting for 25 to 30 percent of consumption expenses.  The Jeevika (meaning livelihood) project seeks to address this issue. With funding from the World Bank, the project is implemented by the Bihar Rural Livelihoods Promotion Society.

Jeevika builds women’s self-help groups, which have proliferated across India, and encourages them to save, engage in economic activities, and then eventually engage with the formal banking system. Through this process, women can finally free themselves from the often oppressive village money lenders. They have been putting their new income and skills to good use – buying livestock or setting up small shops. Women’s repayment rates through the program have been an impressive 95% – a figure that is standard in microfinance.

Development India: Banking on Women

World Bank Jeevika Project Information

Debating the future of microfinance

April 7, 2010

Our GBA member Women’s World Banking (WWB) Center for Microfinance Leadership and the Aresty Institute of Executive Education at the Wharton School of Business recently partnered to bring together 22 microfinance leaders from 14 countries for a workshop to examine the state of the microfinance industry and plan for its future.  Such discussions are timely and much needed, given the evolution of the microfinance industry from a not-for-profit model to a profit generating enterprise.

Participants discussed new approaches to meeting industry needs in the areas of corporate governance, risk management, and talent management, as well as working on scenario planning. Considering microfinance’s overwhelming positive impact on poor women around the world, such thoughtful discussions are most welcome.

Read a news story on the workshop

Watch WWB’s President and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian talk about the concept of microfinance

Personal finance site for women receives funding boost

April 5, 2010

LearnVest, a personal finance site for women, has just received a $4.5 million finance boost from Accel, the venture capital firm, and its seed investors. While there are many websites focused on personal finance, LearnVest’s focus on women in different stages of their life is a differentiating factor.

LearnVest produces articles and sends a daily e-mail newsletter with useful tips on issues such as overdraft protection. The site includes checklists and action plans on saving for a vacation or starting a retirement account. The website has grown quickly. Since last December, it has attracted 100,000 users.

More such useful tools for women are indeed welcome news!

New York Times: Accel Invests in Personal Finance Site for Women


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