UN Women and an American company to help women-led businesses
The shift to gender-focused investing in the Caribbean, an initiative of UN Women and US-based Portland Private Equity, in partnership with 2XCollaborative, began with an agreement to make finance accessible to female-led companies. women.
Government leaders, regional and multilateral development finance institutions, and public and private investors came together virtually to launch the initiative on December 10, during which a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Cluster Office of UN Women (MCO) Caribbean and Portland Private Equity.
2XCollaborative was created to serve investors around the world, making their first gender-focused investment.
Gender investing is a strategy that takes into account gender factors throughout the investment process, and the program aims to strengthen gender investment in the region, in particular by strengthening capacities of the private sector and governments to ensure that women-owned or operated businesses have access to capital to develop and grow their businesses.
UN Women Regional Director for the Americas and the Caribbean, Maria-Noel Vaeza, speaking at the signing, described it as “a pivotal day for UN Women and for the Caribbean”.
“This MOU with Portland Private Equity will implement gender-focused funding with the Caribbean Basin Gender Equality Fund (the Gender Equality Fund), the region’s leader. in investments for gender equality throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
With the technical support of UN Women, she said: “This fund is the first regional investment under the Global 2X Collaborative launched by the 2X Challenge founded by the G7 DFIs as a call for action for investment capital aimed at empowering women.
The fund will build on the lessons of the Innovative Finance and Investment with a Gender Lens Initiative launched in Latin America in 2020 by UN Women to attract private sector investment, strengthen the ecosystem of sensitive investments gender and contribute to the creation of partnerships for the achievement of sustainable development goal five, mainly through the promotion of the mobilization of capital and investments oriented towards the prism of gender.
Doug Hewson, Managing Director of Portland Private Equity, a founding member of 2XCollaborative, explained why gender-focused investing is good for business.
“As a general partner of growth equity funds,” said Hewson, “our job is to attract, understand, conduct due diligence and influence the growth of our portfolio business, and we believe that integrating of gender-focused investing will help us find more interesting companies in the region to invest in and in terms of value, we believe that greater diversity leads to better company cultures, better decisions and better best results.”
Hewson said that as a private equity firm adhering to industry standard practices, gender-focused investing proves to be more profitable, referring to the significant increase in gender-based investments, with an amount of 4.8 billion US dollars raised in 2019.
“In accordance with our experience in developing ESG (environmental, social and governance) principles throughout our investment process and our portfolio, the integration of a gender perspective is necessary as a lever value resulting in competitive advantage companies and superior investment results.
“Not integrating a gender perspective is to deliberately ignore a key factor in the performance of the company. “
At the launch event, Belize Power Connect Ltd, a women-owned business in Belize, was highlighted due to the innovative financing measures used to support its growth.
While celebrating the progress of women in their participation in higher levels of education and the increase in the number of women in the workforce, during his opening speech, the Prime Minister of Belize, John Briceno, underlined the importance for women to have access to finance to develop their businesses.
He also spoke of the urgent need to have more women in public life to lead policy making and influence development.
“Here at home, women are under-represented in small and medium-sized businesses,” Briceno said.
The UNDP socio-economic impact assessment of covid19 indicated that 83.9% of business owners in Belize are micro-business owners with 11% small business owners.
“Of that number, 55% of micro-business owners are women, but the results revealed that most small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are owned by men.
“Many women-owned or run businesses continue to struggle with the lack of access to capital to develop and expand their businesses,” Briceno said.
Meanwhile, UN Women Representative, MCO Caribbean, Tonni Brodber, said that although Caribbean women are very enterprising, “they struggle to access appropriate funding and support for their businesses.
“Lack of access to capital,” Brodber said, “is one of the main reasons women-led businesses fail and the region has the second highest failure rate of female-owned businesses. women in the world “.
Recognizing the lack of capital for SMEs in the region, the Director General of the Caribbean Countries Department of the Inter-American Development Bank, Therese Turner-Jones, called on all stakeholders to identify opportunities for collaboration to increase investment focused on gender in the region and commended UN Women for its work in developing an innovative approach to funding.