The United Nations theme for International Women’s Day this year is DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality, a celebration of women who are “championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education.” With innovative digital tools, we can reach more women with the financial services they need to strengthen their livelihoods and build a better future. This year’s day of observance also recognizes the impact of the digital gender gaps and their potential to leave women further behind, both economically and socially.
In our annual blog series featuring women leaders of Accion and our partners, we’re highlighting inspiring leaders who bring passion and creativity to their vision of building a better world for all people. You can learn about more inspiring women in our second article in this series.
Meet some of the women we’re proud to work with:
Erika Eurkus, Vice President, Resource Development at Accion
Erika Eurkus’ relationship with Accion goes back two decades, spanning both US and global work and several different programmatic efforts — from working with peer loan groups and developing individual loan products to raising loan funds and launching corporate partnerships. Now she works with Accion’s engaged and passionate donors who share our values and propel our mission forward.
Erika started her career in her hometown of Boston, Massachusetts. “In my heart, I always knew I would eventually have a career with a purpose, especially one focusing on social justice,” she says. “After graduating from college, I accepted a position as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for a domestic microcredit organization. And my career working to create economic opportunity was launched far sooner than I had expected — and right in my own backyard.” Erika worked as a loan officer and program manager for small business lenders Working Capital and then Accion USA (now Ascendus). “Working directly with small business owners opened my eyes to the vast disparities that exist in access to capital, and I knew I could have a great impact in harnessing increased resources for our clients.”
In her current role as Vice President for Accion’s Resource Development team, Erika Eurkus oversees individual philanthropy, helping Accion further our work to bring opportunity to low-income people worldwide. “We must keep building public-private partnerships locally and globally to impact maternal health, early childhood education, and a financial system that works for everyone,” she says.
While Erika is energized by the rapid pace of digitization in financial services, she recognizes the reality that profound inequalities in society have contributed to fewer opportunities for women and a resulting loss of economic productivity. “To reach equity, we must continuously generate bold ideas, creative thinking, and action. We can’t quiet any voice who has something to say. And, of course, partnerships – shared values and common goals – can achieve so much and are key to our work at Accion,” says Erika, reflecting on some of the partnerships she’s helped develop over the years. For example, the Brewing the American Dream partnership between Samuel Adams and Accion Opportunity Fund, a program designed to provide food and beverage entrepreneurs with the resources they need to succeed — including many businesses run by women and people of color who are often shut out of the formal financial system.
To others who are looking to make an impact, Erika says, “Opportunities to have an impact abound in today’s fast-moving economies. When I studied economics, the only mention of social impact was through optional reading, which happened to lead me to a short Economist piece on microfinance. Today, myriad non-profits, companies of all sizes, and hybrid organizations are focused on some element of impact. The key is to find a connection to a cause that is meaningful to you and seek out an opportunity within that field that provides learning, growth, and the chance to effect change.”