On Thursday, the World Bank's International Finance Corporation announced plans to launch a $600 million financing program in order to support women entrepreneurs, reports The Wall Street Journal.
The hope is that by having the program tap emerging markets such as Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, women will have a better shot at developing their own businesses.
“We cannot afford to exclude half of the world’s population from the rightful role in helping to change the face of the global economy,” World Bank president Jim Yong Kim told the Journal.
However, many women worldwide cannot access loans due to legal or social barriers that undermine their efforts. For example, many women are not allowed to own assets such as a home, which would provide collateral for a loan. According to the IFC, the disparity against women-owned businesses in emerging markets is so great that nearly $320 billion has been held back.
Another goal of the program is to put more women to work. As economists told the Journal, closing the gender gap in the Middle East and North Africa could lift those regions' per capita gross domestic product by 27 percent; in South Asia, by 23 percent.
The IFC has vowed to invest $100 million in the venture, called the Women Entrepreneurs Operating Facility. Goldman Sachs has pledged an additional $32 million. For Goldman, the program represents another facet of its 10,000 Women initiative, which has provided business training to female entrepreneurs since 2008.