May 21, 2020 - The Aspen Institute in Mexico City

Overcoming the Wall Street Paradox: Getting a Greater Return by Investing in Women in Central America 

Columbia University's School of International and Public Policy

Columbia University's School of International and Public Policy students are bridging the gap between women-led SGBs and impact investors in Latin America with Pro Mujer. The research will be presented at the Aspen Institute in Mexico City in collaboration with Pro Mujer and the International Finance Corporation.

Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) are exploring the discrepancy between investors and women-led companies in Central America for Pro Mujer. Pro Mujer is a leading women’s non-profit development organization, headquartered in New York and committed to positively impacting the lives of their clients and their families, distributing more than $3.5 billion in investment funds to women-owned businesses. 


The opportunity for impact investment in women-led businesses is unprecedented. According to a 2016 Cornell University study, women entrepreneurs have been proven to perform better and have a higher social impact than their male counterparts. However, there remains a discrepancy between investors and women-led companies. While women entrepreneurs require capital to grow their ventures, they are receiving less funding than their male counterparts. Additionally, women and girls continue to lack access to many services and products that would improve their quality of life and gender equality. 


Deliverables and Impact

In order to enable Pro Mujer to create the conditions to unlock capital for women entrepreneurs, Columbia University students will provide a publishable paper and presentation to Pro Mujer and its stakeholders, including the IFC and the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, that answer the following questions: 

  •  How can impact investors reach more women entrepreneurs? 

  • Are investors looking in the best places and using adequate channels to find women-owned businesses? 

  • Are there any conscious or unconscious bias when selecting “social impact” entrepreneurs? 

  • What are the specific needs for women small and growing businesses (SGBs) in terms of financial and non-financial support? 

  • What are the specific barriers businesswomen face to access capital? 

  • Are typical financial instruments adequate for women-led businesses? 

  • Are impact investors considering gender-focused business models in their impact portfolios?


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