Gender equality is a major issue in development. But, women hold the key to the change. Here’s how empowering women can help boost entrepreneurship, mitigate climate change, and spur social transformation.

Women and girls continue to suffer from unequal opportunities in economic participation, access to health services, and political empowerment as well as (though much progress has been made) in educational attainment. Such challenges include running for office, aiming for a leadership position in government, or securing jobs paying women and men equal wages. Women have also a much harder time opening bank accounts or getting loans than men. Add to all this, the COVID-19 pandemic overturned decades of progress by increasing economic challenges, burdening women with extra unpaid domestic work, and increasing cases of gender-based violence.

Women are affected disproportionately by the negative effects of climate change. But they can also bring about catalytic change and help us avert its catastrophic results. A growing body of evidence shows that development projects carried out by women are more likely to succeed and have a bigger impact. Research suggests that women are more likely to start sustainability-focused businesses while companies with greater gender diversity on boards are more probable to score lower on energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and water use. For this reason, the Bank backed a venture capital vehicle in Latin America called EcoEnterprises Fund with €21 million. The women-run fund finances growing nature-based companies that support sustainable livelihoods and promote women’s participation at all levels of management.

The European Investment Bank is committed to supporting projects and investments empowering women across the world in line with its Gender Action Plan. Importantly, EIB’s Climate Bank Roadmap 2021-25 commits to invest more strategically in projects that simultaneously support the green transition, environmental sustainability and gender equality.

The European Investment Bank is also the first multilateral development bank to have adopted the global 2X Challenge gender criteria. Since the start of the initiative in 2019, the Bank has mobilised more than €2 billion and helped African women get better access to finance, as well as dedicated coaching, tailored services, and products. Last year, for example, the Bank secured $24.6 million for the largest gender-lens private equity fund by value in Africa, Alitheia IDF, which aims to help female entrepreneurs and women-led businesses on the continent.

“Today’s development challenges are becoming more complex, and the need for women’s leadership and innovative solutions has never been greater. It requires a renewed focus on collaboration among various development partner institutions to amplify our joint gender impact, “says Carmen Niethammer, EIB Senior Gender Specialist. “For example, EIB chairs the Multilateral Development Banks (MDB) Working Group on Gender that focuses on recovering, transforming and building a gender resilient future. The Bank also co-leads on gender and climate change as part of the 2X Collaborative community, a global industry body for gender-lens investing. Together, it can be done!”