SFO Women Empowerment Fund

The Women Empowerment Fund at SFO is deepening impact by Investing in Women. Our Gender Lens investing includes initiatives with 

1) women as business owners;
2) women as business leaders (such as CEOs);
3) women as employees;
4) women as customers; and
5) women in the supply chain.

  • Beyond the inherent value of promoting and protecting the equal rights of everyone around the world, we believe investing in women’s economic and social empowerment is the best way to improve a society’s overall wellbeing.
  • Women’s empowerment looks to be one of the transformative economic trends of our time.
  • A wealth of research shows how investing in women around the world produces powerful results that benefit families, communities and entire societies — and on top of all makes for good ROI.
  • To participate in the current fund rounds click here
  • To learn about out other funds click here & here

SFO Gender Lens Impact Investing Based Women Empowerment Fund

  • Our projects are grassroots initiatives, focused on empowering women to make positive, sustainable change and progress in their lives and communities.
  • We fund projects across sectors and priority focus areas.
  • Our Projects are making a difference in the lives of women around the world.
  • We are dedicated to the empowerment of women from all walks of life based on the needs they see in their communities.
  • We believe that empowering women is the key to sustainable change, and that empowered women have a responsibility to support their communities.
  • After all, this is the foundation of SFO Women Empowerment Fund — connecting and supporting women through collaboration, education, and opportunity.
  • Woman to woman. Community to Community. Together, we are empowered.

No nation can reach its full potential unless it harnesses the energy, ideas and intellect of all its citizens, including the 50% that are female.

  • One of the best ways that governments the world over can grow their economies, build sustainable communities and lift standards of living is to empower women and girls. According to the United Nations, gender equality is key to unlocking many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and women’s empowerment is an opportunity for nations to grow economically and socially.
  • Around the world, women are increasingly controlling consumer spending with a greater transfer of wealth to the hands of women. While some governments and large donors are driving the global agenda with a gender lens, current efforts are insufficient to achieve large-scale improvements.
  • The time is ripe for gender lens investing to play a greater role.

A Big Tent

  • “Gender lens investing” uses capital to deliver financial returns while improving the lives of women, girls, and their communities. When investors consider dimensions of gender in investment decisions, allocation of capital can be focused in the direction of inclusive interventions that promote and drive such an agenda. This is not limited to businesses that are owned or led by women. “Big tent” gender lens investing includes initiatives with 1) women as business owners; 2) women as business leaders (such as CEOs); 3) women as employees; 4) women as customers; and 5) women in the supply chain.

“Empowering women and girls is one of the fastest ways to reap social and economic dividends.”

  • SFO uses gender as a core plank in its strategy. In the rural areas where it invests, it focuses on supporting those businesses that either have high female participation and/or that directly benefit women and girls.

All Sectors Can Benefit

  • While investing in a women-owned company employing women is a clear case, all sectors can benefit from a gender lens.
  • Infrastructure is traditionally seen as serving genders equally, and gender lens investing has been slow to enter this sector. However, there is scope to increase diversity in the design, planning, and construction phase of infrastructure projects, as women and men use and rely on public structures and systems in different ways around the world.
  • Studies have shown that in many places, women rely more on public transport and are often walking more than men. Women can also have more complex mobility patterns around cities due to their ‘double working day’, balancing their domestic duties with participation in the paid labour market. Women also have different needs in terms of safety and security, which can be improved by infrastructure and service delivery.

Breaking Out

  • Experts estimate a $2.5 trillion gap between current funding levels and what it will take to accomplish the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Many investors are looking for ways to make a positive impact while generating returns. The world over, there are women breaking out of gender stereotypes to start and grow small businesses, often supported by micro-finance underwritten by aid funding.

Women must be central to the Global recovery.

  • The economic crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic is having a profound detrimental effect on women.
  • Women are more likely to work in health care, unpaid care, and domestic work, making them more susceptible to the consequences of the pandemic.
  • Today, women still have only three-quarters the legal rights of men, on average, and fewer than half of the world’s countries have equal pay.
  • Addressing this is essential to combatting gender equality and fuelling the global recovery from COVID-19, write two experts from the World Bank.
  • The economic crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic is having a profound detrimental effect for most people around the world. Yet, it has impacted men and women differently. Women are more likely to work in health care, unpaid care, and domestic work, making them more susceptible to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Women still earn less than men for equally valued jobs, bear more of the childcare burden, and face a higher risk of violence in their homes. The pandemic has widened the gender gap in labor force participation, risking decades of progress for women as workers and entrepreneurs. As we write this, the COVID-19 pandemic is still claiming lives and livelihoods, and government policies to address the gender effects of the pandemic have not been enough given the magnitude of the challenge.

How Big Is the Problem ?

  • According to the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law 2021 report, women still have only three-fourths the legal rights of men, on average around the world. This matters because better performance in the areas measured by the Women, Business and the Law index is associated with a narrower gender gap in development outcomes, more female policy makers, higher female labor force participation, and lower vulnerable employment. A legal environment that encourages women’s economic inclusion can also make them less vulnerable in the face of a crisis.
  • Women, Business and the Law measures how laws and regulations affect women’s economic opportunity in 190 economies. The 2021 edition covers reforms conducted between September 2019 and October 2020. The index analyzes economic rights during different milestones in a woman’s working life through eight indicators ranging from being able to move freely to rights in the workplace, through rights during marriage and after having children, how the law prevents or allows them to run their own businesses and manage assets all the way to retirement.
Laws affect almost every element of a woman’s working life.
  • The global average score in 2020 is 76.1, up from 75.5 in 2019. In ten countries, women are on an equal legal standing with men across all areas measured — Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Portugal and Sweden. This year, Ireland joined the group by reforming parental leave and Portugal equalized rules for remarriage.
  • Twenty-seven economies implemented reforms aimed at equality of opportunity across seven of the eight indicators measured by Women, Business and the Law. Economies in the OECD high-income and Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions reformed the most. Yet, the MENA economies still have the most room to improve.
  • The reform effort is, however, insufficient in the vast majority of countries. Today fewer than half of economies worldwide (90) have mandated equal remuneration for work of equal value. And in 88 economies, laws restrict the jobs and hours that women can work, affecting 2.6 billion women. This leads to occupational segregation, which has resulted in women being overrepresented in jobs that are more affected by COVID-19 disruptions, such as education, retail, tourism, hospitality, and domestic services. While the Pay indicator, which measures job restrictions and the right to equal pay, recorded the most improvement in scores in the new Women, Business and the Law 2021 report, it is also the indicator with the second-lowest performance out of the eight indicators.
Progress is patchy.
  • Reforming laws that hold women back from fully participating in the economy is more important than ever.

Over the next few months, we will continue to provide insights on the key findings from the report. We will explore:

  • Progress towards gender equalityRelationship between WBL indicators and other gender data.
  • How to integrate Women, Business and the Law data in projects
  • Policy measures governments have implemented to address the gender effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Why Women, Business and the Law is considering new indicators related to laws governing childcare and measuring legal implementation.
  • New research questions which are needed to strengthen the economic case for gender equality.


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