“We would not be here without the visionary work of the pioneers who came before us, especially the women leaders who fought to build the very first banks for women in countries with seemingly insurmountable barriers,” writes Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking in the forward of a new online book, Celebrating Women Leaders: Profiles of Financial Inclusion Pioneers. The book shares the stories of 31 women leaders from around the world who made the financial inclusion landscape what it is today.
Those recognized in the book include practitioners, academics, researchers, regulators, thought leaders, financiers, and more. Among them, the industry’s earliest pioneers, like Ela Bhatt, founder of Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), as well as those who joined more recently, like Ruth Goodwin-Groen, Managing Director of the Better Than Cash Alliance, and Jennifer Riria, CEO of Kenya Women Holding. Full disclosure: of the 31 included in the book are also CFI leaders and partners, including Anne Hastings, Elisabeth Rhyne, Essma Ben Hamida, and Jayshree Vyas.
The book was the idea of Samit Ghosh, CEO and Founder of Ujjivan. Ujjivan and Women’s World Banking worked together on the project, with young women working in the sector researching, conducting interviews, and writing the leader profiles.
Recognizing the incredible progress that has been achieved in financial inclusion for women, Samit during his portion of the book’s forward mentions an area in drastic need of leadership and improvement in moving forward: gender imbalance in inclusive finance organizations. Although many institutions tailor their efforts to extending financial services to women, in India, to give one example, only 20 percent of MFI staff are women. More women leaders are clearly needed.
The online book will function as an ongoing project for years to come with the stories of more pioneering women added and shared.
The final sentences of the book’s forward, from Samit, reads: “I hope we carry on this work and include most of the women who are doing this great work from around the world. This will be a great source of inspiration for future generations.”
To access Celebrating Women Leaders: Profiles of Financial Inclusion Pioneers, click here.
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