Working with companies on women’s economic empowerment

Our gender strategy focuses on how we can advance women’s economic empowerment throughout the investment lifecycle.

We do this by identifying “gender smart interventions” that will deliver social and economic value to the companies and markets we invest in. The strategy has four key themes: supporting women’s leadership, improving women’s job quality, promoting access to finance and entrepreneurship, and applying a gender lens to products and services.

We have taken a corporate value chain approach to our strategy – which looks at women as senior leaders, employees, entrepreneurs, customers and community members – to spot opportunities for women’s economic empowerment and build the business case with investors and companies.

We believe that this approach provides greater impact. For example, by providing women in our markets access to decent jobs, serving unmet women’s needs through the products and services we invest in and reducing the risk of gender-based violence.

How we help advance women’s economic empowerment in the way we invest:

  • Gender diagnostics: We support fund managers and companies to carry out gender diagnostics of the portfolio or business. We start by analysing the challenges and opportunities the business wants to address in order to identify how gender smart interventions could help realise productivity or other commercial gains. We can also help to develop the business case through a combination of data gathering and analysis, examining corporate policies, procedures and structures, market research and benchmarking.
  • Gender action planning: We help to design strategic gender action plans based on the realities faced on the ground. We can also support with implementation through technical assistance via our new grant facility, CDC Plus.
  • Gender equality and women’s economic empowerment training: We have designed an interactive training programme for fund managers and companies which covers opportunities associated with gender in businesses, leadership and across value chains.
  • Designing gender-based investment products: Using the knowledge we have gathered so far about gender gaps in the market, we are exploring innovative and alternative financing mechanisms to help bridge the financing gaps for women entrepreneurs.
  • Board placements and senior level recruitment: We help fund managers and companies who are keen to improve the gender balance of their organisations by connecting them to networks and specialist services who excel at finding strong female candidates, including top women candidates with relevant domain skills and experience in Africa and South Asia.
  • Setting industry standards: We are working across the impact investment industry to advocate for consistency in standards and approaches towards gender lens investment. Central to this work is our recent commitment to the G7 DFI 2X Challenge (
  • Building the gender ecosystem: We have a range of gender networks and specialist providers which we are using to facilitate and drive cha