Advancing the Economic Progress of Women

By Duchess Magazine

March 08, 2016 By Brandee McHale, President of the Citi Foundation and Director of Corporate Citizenship, Citi

Over the past year, the Citi Foundation invested in programs supporting the economic progress of more than half a million women globally. These investments included more than $11million in programs that primarily or exclusively support women’s financial inclusion, employment and livelihoods. These efforts are expanding our understanding of the needs of women as microfinance clients, entrepreneurs, students, and are also providing them with the financial resources and services they need to build more stable future for themselves and for their families while contributing to the economic growth of their countries.

Partnership Highlights

Vital Voices
The Citi Foundation and Vital Voices launched the VV Grow Mentoring Program in 2013 to support the needs of local women business owners through the expertise of Citi volunteers in Argentina, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, and South Africa. This one-on-one mentoring program paired high-level executive volunteers with high-potential business owners to strengthen their decision-making power and effectiveness, ultimately contributing to improved business growth. To date, more than 70 executive volunteers, many of them Citi employees, provided more than 2,400 skill-based volunteer hours to help female entrepreneurs achieve business growth, improve operations, increase their leadership abilities through knowledge and best-practice sharing, and expand business networks. As a result of the program, 91% of mentees implemented changes to their business. This includes improving financial record keeping (55%), improving marketing or communications (50%), or creating or implementing a strategic growth plan (50%). One year after the program, 69% of mentees reported sales growth from the previous year, with an average of 66% growth in annual revenue, and 38% percent of mentees reported creating new jobs since the end of the program.

In 2014, the Citi Foundation and TechnoServe launched programs in Africa and Latin America focused on developing women-led small and growing businesses. Catalyzing Small Business Development for Youth and Women in Africa, implemented in South Africa, Uganda, Nigeria and Cote D’Ivoire provides female participants with business skills training and helps them to develop successful and scalable business models to spur business growth and job creation. “Impulsa Tu Empresa” or Small Growing Business Accelerator Program, implemented throughout Central America, is increasing sales and employment in over 800 women-led small and growing businesses, connecting them with formal markets, and facilitating access to capital in four markets in Central America.

Women for Development
Co-developed with Junior Achievement (JA) Americas in 2009, the “Mujeres Emprendedoras” (Women for Development) program works with vulnerable female populations to deliver entrepreneurship and empowerment trainings across the region. This initiative aims to engage, educate and encourage entrepreneurship, and effectively enable the economic progress of these young women. The program, which reaches young women between the ages of 18 and 25, links promising entrepreneurs with access to finance through local microfinance institutions. This link enables participants to build and manage a viable, income-generating business that can flourish and provide an income for the long term. The program is currently being implemented across communities in Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama and Paraguay. More than 13,000 women have received entrepreneurship education and access to microfinance opportunities since the launch of the program in 2009.

Research Highlights

Accelerating Pathways
In November 2015, the Citi Foundation released Accelerating Pathways– a new research initiative conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) that studies how 35 cities around the world support young people’s ambitions and contribute to their economic prospects. This research supports our signature Pathways to Progress effort focused on youth economic empowerment. Pathways to Progress is comprised of Citi Foundation programs and initiatives across the globe that are helping urban youth build an entrepreneurial mindset, acquire leadership, financial and workplace skills, and begin to engage in the formal economy through a first job. Through these economic onramps, youth are actively shaping their futures toward financial success. The research revealed that the gender pay gap is prevalent among youth aged 18-25 and that young women in the 35 cities surveyed earn at least 20% less than men across the cities surveyed. This tells us that young women start on their economic development path at a disadvantage that persists as they grow older.

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