Following the conclusion of the Gender Equality Action Lab work streams, eleven organizations piloted solutions identified to address systemic gender equality constraints which women experience as entrepreneurs, entrepreneur support providers, consumers, and employees.
‘Action Lab Outputs’ Grant Facility
Period of Implementation: January 2022 – January 2023
Following the conclusion of the Gender Equality Action Lab work streams, eleven organizations piloted solutions identified to address systemic gender equality constraints which women experience as entrepreneurs, entrepreneur support providers, consumers, and employees. These outputs are built on a participatory design methodology to fully understand and address the ecosystem barriers that women engaging with SGBs face and range in intended impact across the entrepreneurial support pipeline.
Andean Region Action Lab
- Women, women-led/owned businesses, and businesses offering products for women receive less financing (e.g. loans or investments) than their male counterparts.
Emprende – Led by Pro Mujer
Pro Mujer is providing Latin American women access to quality entrepreneurial content that empowers them to thrive and become economically independent. Pro Mujer’s project provides entrepreneurship training and support services to female entrepreneurs during all stages of their business journey by providing them access to their learning platform, leveraging both digital technology and existing physical Pro Mujer branches. Entrepreneurs are offered multi-format resources, coupled with social networking integration. The project will create a community of female entrepreneurs all along the capital curve in Latin America.
Conscious Processes – Led by Fundes
Fundes is aiming to reduce the gender gap in financial opportunities, caused by unconscious biases of entities in their prospecting, selection, evaluation, and approval processes. Fundes’ project plans on designing a protocol for four financial entities or investment funds that have expressed interest in piloting this program, to ensure that their internal processes are equitable and inclusive. After monitoring protocol implementation, Fundes will adjust the protocol based on findings and is planning on promoting it to other entities. The intended outcomes are to increase the level of financing in women-led companies and reduce the gender gap in access to finance for women entrepreneurs.
Brazil Action Lab
- Small and medium-sized companies led by women, black women, and urban women in Brazil face additional barriers to accessing capital and markets.
The Good Business Program – Led by Fundação Tide Setubal w/ partner Impact Hub Manaus
The Good Business Program will aim to change the status quo by strengthening the practice of more inclusive procurement among large corporations with a gender and race lens in Brazil. The goal is to significantly increase the number of companies led by black women being hired as suppliers by large companies. The Good Business program will achieve its objectives through two main strategies:
- Creating a major national campaign to identify SMEs led by black women who are willing to sell to large corporations. The program will prepare and connect them to large corporations.
- Creating a trustful space for raising awareness of large companies with high procurement power through best practice sharing on inclusive procurement, sensibilization meetings, and training.
Central America and Mexico Action Lab
- Many investors do not invest with a gender lens because they do not know how to align their processes and invest with gender criteria. Many investors think that Gender Lens Investing (GLI) means providing capital to women-led businesses, and they are not considering the other multiple opportunities to incorporate inclusive practices across business operations and internally with the workforce.
Investing in Equality Partnership – Led by Value for Women
In order to increase the amount of investment directed towards women-led and gender-inclusive businesses in the Central America and Mexico region, a community of investors, gender lens investing (GLI) experts, and entrepreneurial intermediaries will create a community that will:
- Increase the number of investors that apply a gender lens
- Encourage more investors to apply a gender lens by creating benchmarks and identification of 3 lessons learned through the use of the Gender Smart Nexus (GSN)
- Share GLI lessons learned from investors at different stages of the GLI journey
- Identify a leading regional “influencer” investor that will receive gender lens advisory from Value for Women to become a spokesperson for GLI in the region Identify and make visible investment-ready women-led and gender-forward businesses
- Creation of a component in SVX Pipeline Navigator platform linking women-led and gender forward businesses accessible to all investment funds that join the community
East Africa Region Action Lab
- Women consumers, entrepreneurs, and employees struggle with self-excluding beliefs that undermine growth.
Increasing access to credit for women entrepreneurs in East Africa – Led by M-Kyala Ventures
To address systemic gender issues that drive the low levels of lending to women entrepreneurs, M-Kyala Ventures will be developing a gender-smart lending toolkit. The gender smart lending toolkit is a practical, efficient, and customized set of practices that will be implemented by financial institutions to enable increased lending to women entrepreneurs in East Africa. The toolkit is designed to address systemic issues that drive the low levels of lending to women entrepreneurs including, restrictive credit terms such as high collateral requirements, high-interest rates, and gender bias as well as the lack of capacity of financial institutions to customize their products and processes to the needs of women entrepreneurs.
360 ° Women Entrepreneur Network – Led by Capital Solutions
Capital Solutions aims to break down systemic barriers to finance for 100 women enterprises by addressing needs from both the supply side (Grassroot Business Initiative – GBIs) and the demand side (women entrepreneurs). The initiative provides a 360° solution to tackle the most pressing challenges persistently faced by women entrepreneurs. In East Africa, no networks are providing this end-to-end solution to foster an ecosystem to support women-led businesses and drive the gender lens ecosystem.
West Africa Region Action Lab
- Women-led SGBs in West Africa are scaling at a slower or lesser rate than male-led teams due to a lack of capacity and access to finance to grow and scale business.
Amplifying the Capacity of West African Women Entrepreneurs to Grow and Scale their Ventures – Led by Ashesi University
This project aims to support early- and medium-stage women entrepreneurs to scale their businesses successfully. The project team is developing a robust, gender-lens-focused digital platform that enables them to provide women entrepreneurs with tailored capacity building, entrepreneur training, technical advice, bespoke venture-building support, and access to funding sources so they can scale their businesses. This tech-based solution will be accessible online and offline. The proposed solution is housed at the entrepreneurship center of one of West Africa’s leading private universities. The team behind the design and implementation of the solution consists of academics, business specialists, business accelerator and incubator leads and managers, funding experts as well as policy specialists.
South Africa Region Action Lab
- A lack of access to finance is stifling the growth of women-owned SGBs in South Africa, and their ability to create jobs. As women-owned SGBs are more likely to create jobs for women, this has a compounding effect on the gender income gap.
Accelerated Access to Finance for Women-Led SGBs – Led by African Management Institute
This project will establish or form support programs (i.e. investor readiness and matching, access to finance, output-based mentorship) where women can share their experiences and receive guidance on how to (a) approach funders and (b) structure sellable or bankable business plans.
The program aims to source 60 SGBs from the local Business Development Service (BDS) provider ecosystem –based on a true need for finance, and a need for extra support to access financial opportunities. The selection will include both women-owned SGBs and funders in the design of a results-driven, research-backed BDS program. The program will address both technical finance access skills (e.g. understanding provider requirements) and ‘soft’ finance access skills (e.g. storytelling, advocating for yourself, negotiation). The project will match participants directly with potential funders (debt or equity) after completion of the access to finance program that was co-designed with these funders.
East and Southeast Asia Region Action Lab
- Women-led SGBs lack the skills to access and strategically use capital.
WE Rise Community Asis – Led by Villgro Philippines w/ partner SanThit
This project is building an access-to-finance platform for women entrepreneurs to connect to capital, content, and a community with a mission to bridge the gender financing gap in Southeast Asia. The platform developed by the project will:
- host a self-diagnostic tool to help women entrepreneurs understand their investment readiness and needs assessment;
- create a safe space for women entrepreneurs to learn and share with peers and experts through community activities;
- deliver a self-paced virtual learning curriculum on the basics of finance and investment readiness;
- create a virtual resource hub including a loan product search tool to identify capital sources in the Philippines and Myanmar;
- onboard investors, banks, and financial institutions with the objective to connect them to potential deals and build bridges with women entrepreneurs.
India Action Lab
- There are explicit and implicit biases in the entire investment process; at the same time, the gender composition of funding teams is not conducive to bringing out the best in most women entrepreneurs, leading to lower funding outcomes for women entrepreneurs. Therefore, the lab will work with investors to make funding teams & processes more gender-aware, leading to an increase in opportunities for accessing funding for women entrepreneurs.
- There isn’t a roadmap or model which would allow more women entrepreneurs to move from solopreneurs to SGBs and move beyond SGB to scale. Only seven percent of women entrepreneurs in India fall in the SGB category. Of these, ninety-nine percent have cited a lack of financial models for women as a challenge for growth and scale.
Investor Equity Alliance – Led by Village Capital
The project aims to address the disparity in funding to female SGB founders by creating an alliance of industry insiders and veterans to co-create, demonstrate and promote models & processes that will improve funding outcomes. Intended outcomes include:
- A robust, self-regulating investor equity alliance with a strong knowledge-sharing & dissemination mandate
- Growing awareness & adoption of more equitable processes, systems, and teams
- Improved funding outcomes for female founders of SGBs, including access to and quantum of funding
Insights into Making Lending Inclusive- Led by Villgro Innovations Foundation
This project will execute primary research followed by a detailed analysis to understand the barriers that prevent women-led small and medium enterprises (WSMEs) access affordable debt funding opportunities in India from the perspectives of both entrepreneurs and lenders. To help lenders develop debt products that are amenable, affordable, and accessible. The project aims to conduct surveys and in-depth interviews with women entrepreneurs and lenders to better understand the barriers women entrepreneurs are facing and what lenders’ hesitations are to lend to women entrepreneurs. The research will be shared with relevant lenders.