Gender Smart | March 7, 2018

Shalaka Joshi: The case for embedding gender in business decisions

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Shalaka Joshi is the South Asia “gender lead” of the International Finance Corp., the private-finance arm of the World Bank.

So she can tick off the impact of the IFC’s Banking on Women initiative, which has mobilized more than $1.3 billion to help get 50 banks in 34 countries lending to women-owned small businesses. With a profitable new line of business, the banks are now lending on their own.

SOCAP18 will convene on October 23–26, 2018 in San Francisco. Register here

Likewise, IFC technical support helped Ecom, the world’s third-largest coffee distributor, improve productivity by boosting the skills and status of women farmers.

“It’s not about a nice-to-have, a do-this-to-make-yourself feel good,” Joshi said in a video interview with ImpactAlpha’s David Bank at last fall’s SOCAP conference in San Francisco. “There’s a crucial business case for why you should embed gender into enterprises at all kinds of scales, all kinds of ways.”

Often, attention to gender is required to mitigate a material risk. One firm in Papua New Guinea told the UK’s Overseas Development Institute that an estimated 26,200 days per year were lost as a result of domestic violence. Domestic violence is pervasive in the Pacific, with surveys showing that the incidence of violence against women in the Pacific is the worst in the world. More than 60 per cent of women and girls have experienced violence at the hand of an intimate partner or family member.

As Joy Anderson has written on ImpactAlpha, gender-based violence “is not a sideline social issue, relegated to development grants and the work of NGOs. Bringing a gender analysis into investments in the region allows investors to understand and navigate this risk more effectively.”

In the interview, Joshi said, “The entry point is rarely, ‘Is there gender-based violence?’ It’s ‘What are the business challenges you face? Let us help you tease out how to address those challenges.’”

“Gender is often at the root of those challenges,” Joshi said. “Gender-based violence is a particularly difficult problem to address, but has very strong impact once you address it.”

Using tools of finance to address domestic violence against women in the Pacific