All around the world, basic financial services enable people to open their own businesses, educate their children, and provide for their families, but they aren’t within reach for everyone — including 980 million women who don’t have a bank account or even the ability to send and receive money on their phones. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequalities that women face and exposed how the gender gap in financial inclusion continues to hold women back.
This year, the UN Women theme for International Women’s Day is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” We’re highlighting women leaders who are working to open opportunity for women and men through inclusive finance in our annual International Women’s Day blog series. You can learn about more inspiring women in our first and third article in this series.
Meet some of the women we’re inspired by:
Luz Borchardt, Co-founder of Henry
Luz Borchardt sees her work in Latin America’s education sector as a revolution. “The traditional education system is broken. At Henry, we are disrupting and kicking the paradigm of education as we know it. We challenge the status quo of education. We open opportunity by giving access to people who do not have the material resources, but do have the talent, by allowing them to defer the payment of the cost of their education until the person gets a job and becomes productive.” Luz and her co-founders started Henry, an Accion Venture Lab portfolio company, to make software development training more accessible to people in Latin America by embedding financial services into their education platform. Luz’s passion lies in unlocking the talent of Latin American women by bringing them into the booming tech industry. “Having more women in STEM would bring benefits for their professional development and economic autonomy, but also their communities and countries urgently require women’s contribution to find new solutions to the problems we face as a society,” she says. “Likewise, it is essential that every user finds their vision of the world represented at each table where a digital product is thought [of], designed, and developed. More women in technology is synonymous with a more egalitarian and inclusive society.”
Despite growing demand for technical skills, coding and software development are still not considered appealing careers for women in the region. “We have the great challenge of breaking down the stereotypes that we consume and creating a horizon of possibilities about what is expected of each gender to reduce the gap between men and women. These stereotypical representations operate from an early age and condition the future of many girls and women who do not believe they are ready to [become developers] in the tech sector.” When women in Latin America embrace tech as a career, more opportunities for jobs and financial stability open up to them. “When women become financially empowered, they invest most likely in education, food, and health, which has an impact on society in general and helps reduce social inequalities and boost economic growth.”
Luz is energized by the impact that she makes through Henry’s work. “I love it, it makes me feel well, we change the lives of a lot of people. And this fills us with pride and encourages us to continue working with great intensity, to be able to invest in more and more people.” She encourages more women to pursue entrepreneurship like she has. “I want to encourage every woman that wants to make an impact to act, to be the protagonist of this world that surrounds us. Entrepreneurship is a matter of attitude. If you find a problem you are passionate about, investigate it in-depth, prototype a solution, talk to many people to validate your idea, and execute it — and the show begins! The best way to start is to implement and navigate your idea. I deeply encourage women to start by doing, even if the idea or solution is not perfect. I also encourage women to find their own voice in this conversation, too — whether that’s in your home, in your workplace, or in your community. We need to expand women’s power and influence all over the world!”