Chief Executive Officer, Nuveen
(formerly known as TIAA Global Asset Management):
The success and empowerment of women holds a special significance to me as the father of three beautiful daughters. Like all fathers, I have always hoped for my daughters to be happy in life, successful in their chosen professions, and financially self-sufficient. My passion for this topic also stems from my work at the World Bank, where I saw first-hand the economic power and social impact women can create when they are financially self-sufficient.
Research shows that when women become economically empowered, the money they spend on education and health care for their children increases significantly, and the beneficial impact of that self-sufficiency extends well beyond any funding they may have received to start their own businesses.
In India, for example, a woman who sifted through rubbish in Ahmedabad and collected and recycled discarded bottle caps for about $2 per day, received a small microfinance loan in 2006. She is now the proud owner of six bottle-cap straightening machines that process more than 100 pounds of caps per day, which are sold back to bottling companies. After paying the salaries of her five employees, she makes a small profit she saves every month - a move that she says has transformed the way she and her family live.
In Bangladesh, where women are often confined to their homes and earning opportunities are scarce, microfinancing has provided many women with small loans to buy seeds, and even cows to start or grow small businesses. For the first time, access to capital has made it possible for these women to earn enough to give their children - 40 percent of whom are malnourished - three meals a day and to pay for medicine for their families.
As heartwarming as these stories are, the reality is that financing and employment opportunities for women remain limited in many emerging markets. Worldwide, 42 percent of all women have no bank accounts or collateral, and in developing countries it's as high as 50 percent, according to the Global Findex Database.
Without adequate financing and a proper support system, buying the equipment, materials and products that are necessary to start a business are very problematic. Microfinancing provides a viable investment option that helps lift many women out of poverty, offers hope for the future and speeds economic development.
This need was addressed directly by Lok Capital's First Impact Fund in 2006, which provided self-sustaining commercial investments to women who lacked the collateral and capital to start their own businesses in developing markets. Since then, Lok has launched three ground-breaking funds that provide women with access to basic services beyond microfinance including Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Scale Enterprises (MSME) financing, affordable housing finance, agriculture and healthcare.
As a founding contributor to the Lok Capital initiative, I was associated with the Lok Foundation, which sponsors all of Lok's equity funds, during its infancy from 2003-2007. Although I am no longer actively involved, I lead the asset management business of TIAA, a company that is an investor in Lok.
Through my early involvement with the Foundation, I have come to know and admire Lok's outstanding work. What they do to further the cause of broader financial and social inclusion in India is nothing short of amazing. Empowering women is not only good business, it is the right thing to do, and I am very proud to have been a part of Lok's journey.