Beyond business

Our CEO Helen McEachern discusses the true impact of women’s economic empowerment.

As Christine Lagarde put it, empowering women to gain financial independence is an “economic no-brainer”. But it also sparks change that is about so much more than money, as financial security enables women to gain greater control over so many other aspects of their lives.

This is one of the insights from an independent evaluation of our Road to Growth initiative – a collaborative venture with the ExxonMobil Foundation that builds the financial literacy and business management skills of women businesses owners in low and middle income countries.

After speaking with women one year after the end of our pilot programme in Nigeria in 2015-16, the London School of Economics’ Innovation Co-Creation Lab found that our Road to Growth model enabled women to boost their businesses and exercise positive change in their households, lives and relationships. Some of our report’s findings are unpacked below.

“You’re not alone, you have a community.”

Creating physical and digital networks opens up vital spaces for support, exchange and collaboration which can be nothing less than life-changing for a woman business owner struggling to make it on her own. These spaces empower women to create a “business family”.

“You have more say in your home.”

Women applied knowledge and negotiation skills in their households. They were more vocal about their opinions regarding the management of household finances and more prepared to make changes to better balance their family and work life, for example by sharing household work more amongst family members, hiring additional support or voicing their needs. Women also felt they could engage in conversations about personal issues more freely with their spouses.

“Everyone blossoms from a woman being trained.”

Findings show that women used entrepreneurship and their learned skills to create value for others. Not only did they generate employment or develop social enterprises as a means of giving back to their communities, but they saw themselves as ‘change agents’, passing on their knowledge by training or mentoring others.

Hear from the women directly in this video.

The changes experienced by these women are the seeds of social transformation, as women gain the power to become full participants in their societies and economies.

Following the Nigeria pilot in 2015-16, we tailored our Road to Growth initiative for women in Mexico in 2018, and will be returning to Nigeria to reach more women in 2019.

For us, the road does not end here. We are committed to using these learnings to inform future iterations of our Road to Growth model, as well as our wider work. We hope that other organisations which share our vision for a world of economic equality will also make use of these insights to accelerate progress on a larger scale.