Investing in Gender Equality: EU Bank and women’s rights campaigners join forces

Investing in Gender Equality: EU Bank and women’s rights campaigners join forces

  •  Release date: 05 February 2018
  •  Reference: 2018-029-EN
  • New Gender Action Plan will guide implementation of the EIB Group Strategy on Gender Equality and Women’s Economic empowerment, promoting gender equality in the operational activities of the EIB and EIF
  • Civil society organisations and representatives from the financial and banking sector EIB experts and members of the EIB Board of administration joined to optimize kick-off
  • The focus is on  action to protect women’s and girls’ rights; to ensure equal access by women and men alike to benefits generated by EIB Group  investments;  and to target women’s economic empowerment.

Today advocates for gender equality and experts from the banking and finance sectors have been meeting senior representatives from the European Investment Bank in Luxembourg on how the EIB Group’s newly approved Gender Action Plan can best serve the promotion of gender equality in all its activities. Leading the debate alongside EIB Vice President Alex Stubb, was Madeleine Rees, Secretary General of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; Joanna Maycock, Secretary General of the European Women’s Lobby; Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking and Elise Badoy, Deputy Head of Citi Research, EMEA.

Last year the EIB Group supported hundreds of projects worldwide with more than 87 EUR billion of financing. As the world’s largest Multilateral Financier – the EIB Group has now committed to promoting gender equality in all of its activities through Strategy for Gender Equality and Women’s Economic Empowerment, which came into force last year. The Gender Action Plan – informed through consultation with key partners and civil society organizations to implement it – was approved last month. 

Vice President Alexander Stubb who is responsible for Gender Policy at the EU Bank said, “You can count on me to champion this agenda. This is a no brainer. All the evidence confirms that supporting women’s economic empowerment makes ethical, social, economic and business sense.  A growing number of investors from diverse backgrounds have come to realise the benefits of actively promoting women’s empowerment. And we have seen that as a result of this global step change, European Institutions, EU Member States, FTSE 100 and other blue chip companies, International Financial Institutions, and we here at the EIB, are stepping up to the plate on gender equality. Our Strategy is in place but as we turn that into action we need to work together. That’s why we appreciate the constructive engagement of partners in civil society and banking with whom we hope to continue working – because putting this into practice is now the most important objective.“

Speaking after the meeting today, Joanna Maycock, Secretary General of the European Women’s Lobby said, “Economic policies are not neutral. They have a major gendered impact, and if gender is not taken into account any policy and investment will further contribute to sex discrimination and gender inequality. The time is now. There is a major momentum and a growing movement from women’s marches to online activism to women in boardrooms and parliaments and indeed in some quarters too. With its Gender Strategy and new Gender Action Plan the EIB now has the ability to show leadership and use its power and resources to be at the vanguard of bringing real change in Europe : greater equality, less poverty; and greater social cohesion too.“

Madeleine Rees, Secretary General of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom said, “The adoption of a gender strategy by EIB is to be warmly welcomed and is much needed. It will make a huge difference if the promised impact and protection can be achieved through effective and strategic investments. That can only really be done if there is meaningful engagement with the civil society organisations from the communities which will be affected by the investment; if investment is guided by the reality on the ground coupled with the legal obligations and stated principles in the strategy, I believe we will be looking at a real and tangible benefit across the board.“

Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking said, “Investments in women’s economic empowerment are the smartest investments to make to accelerate growth in the global economy. Women’s World Banking applauds EIB for the development of its Gender Action Plan and looks forward to working together to create a more secure, stable and prosperous world.”

Elise Badoy Deputy Head of Citi Research, EMEA, said, “Gender inequality is more than just a social or ethical issue –it is an economic problem felt across all aspects of society. By increasing women participation in the labour force, productivity rises while the skill mix across the global economy improves, yet the labour force participation of women continues to lag behind that of men. Improving gender equality could significantly boost growth in advanced economies over the coming decades. In a recent report Women in the Economy II, Citi research analysts demonstrate that tackling the factors excluding women from work are essential in achieving better growth, we estimate that removing these barriers could boost OECD growth by between 6 and 20 percent”.

The new Gender Action Plan discussed today, will serve as our roadmap and will guide implementation of the Strategy, clearly articulating the Group’s planned  activities and milestones to this end across the Bank and the Fund. Over the next two years, the EIB Group will be actively seeking advice and support from civil society as well as the banking and finance sectors alongside institutional partners to further develop it. 

The EIB Group Gender Strategy seeks to increase the impact of the Group’s actions on gender equality by focusing on three strategic objectives, Protect, Impact and Invest:

-protecting women’s rights and avoiding doing harm or reinforcing pre-existing gender inequalities;

-increasing the positive impact of EIB Group operations on gender equality;

-and targeting investment opportunities and markets that increase women’s participation, on equal terms, in the economy and labour market, 

The Gender Action Plan has two phases covering the period 2018-2019, and then 2020-2021. Key aims over 2018-19 are:

Under the Protect objective, a fit-for- purpose EIB due diligence framework will emerge, allowing clients and EIB experts to assess, and prevent impacts and risks of EIB investments to girls and women. Two lead thematic priorities will be identified early on, while the business case for the Group to support gender equality in its clients’ corporate governance will be explored.

Action under the Impact objective will improve the integration of gender considerations within relevant EIB Group operations

The Invest pillar will focus on identifying geographical priorities, suitability of instruments and new business opportunities to support women’s economic empowerment. It will also determine how the Bank may best contribute to an increase in women’s participation in the labour force and where it can strategically invest.

In addition, institutional elements that are critical to supporting the plan’s implementation will be targeted, such as: leadership around the agenda, capacity building, strategic partnerships, results measurement systems and accountability frameworks.

Background information:

Equality between women and men is a matter of fundamental values and human rights, enshrined in International Law, the EU’s treaties and legislation, including that of Member States. For the EU, it dates back to 1957, when the principle of equal pay for equal work became part of the Treaty of Rome. Gender equality has been further embedded in subsequent treaties, legislation, directives and policies; all with the aim of guaranteeing the principles of non-discrimination and the equal treatment of women and men within the European Union.

Useful Links and Projects  

EIB Group Gender Action Plan and EIB Group Gender Strategy:

Watch why Gender Investment matters:

 Short Link