The SGB sector has an important role to play in achieving gender equality. If half the world’s population is left behind, significant progress on the SDGs is impossible.
The ANDE Gender Equality Initiative (AGEI) was launched at ANDE’s 2019 Annual Conference to support women as leaders, employees, and consumers in the developing economies SGB sector. This global collective impact initiative provides a platform for ANDE members and the wider SGB sector to elevate SGBs as contributors to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”
The initiative seeks to build supportive entrepreneurial ecosystems in developing economies that are responsive to the ways in which women have been subject to gender bias and institutional exclusion. It works to strengthen intermediaries that provide support to women entrepreneurs to fund more companies, build their capacity, connect them with appropriate sources of capital, and help them scale. Other priorities include advancing women as key decision makers—fund managers, board members, mentors and employees—in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
This fund seeks to address the significant gap in access to finance for women-led SGBs by identifying the best strategies to get investment capital into the hands of women entrepreneurs in developing economies. In 2020, ANDE selected eight entrepreneurial support organizations to receive one-year grants of up to $150,000 in the first round of AWEF grantmaking, focused on South and Southeast Asia. In 2021, ANDE funded three organizations working in eastern, western, and southern Africa.
Utilizing an inclusive participatory design approach, ANDE partnered with the MIT D-Lab to co-design a Gender Equality Action Lab curriculum focused on building the capacity of SGB support organizations to collectively advance SDG 5 targets. After conducting a comprehensive literature review and assembling regional Advisory Committees to map key challenges, each ANDE chapter launched a Gender Equality Action Lab to ideate and prototype solutions to systemic gender inequities in the SGB sector. These Action Labs will convene regularly in 2021, concluding with a funding challenge to scale promising solutions.
ANDE, along with the Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC) and World University Service of Canada (WUSC), and support from Global Affairs Canada (GAC), aim to build the gender-lens investing ecosystem for growth-oriented women entrepreneurs to start and grow climate-related businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa through this project. AWCE will contribute to poverty reduction by identifying and promoting good practices to support women entrepreneurs in climate-related value chains and developing a road map for international development stakeholders to provide further gender-responsive support to women climate entrepreneurs and intermediaries.
The SGB sector can contribute to SDG 5 through three categories of actions:
- Promoting investments and effective support services for women-led SGBs.
- Improving gender-inclusive employment policies within SGBs and intermediary organizations, including increasing the development of women in leadership roles and providing gender-sensitive policies for employees at all levels.
- Scaling gender-focused business models through SGBs, including integrating women-owned or -led businesses into corporate supply chains or distribution channels and providing goods or services beneficial to women and girls.
According to the International Finance Corporation, it amounts to nearly $320 billion in developing countries. This lack of access to capital, due in part to investor bias, is a major constraint to growth. There is also reason to believe that this gap extends beyond financing into other support services, which studies suggest can be less effective for women relative to their male counterparts. Research from ANDE’s Global Accelerator Learning Initiative (GALI) finds that women-led businesses are less likely to apply to acceleration programs, and those that do receive this support are still less likely than their male counterparts to secure equity financing.