The Charity CEO Podcast


Mary Ellen Iskenderian

President & CEO, Women's World Banking: There's nothing micro about a billion women!

"Empowerment is the ability to make choices... and... having economic tools, economic resources is a way of providing the means for those choices."

Mary Ellen Iskenderian is President and CEO of Women’s World Banking, the global nonprofit devoted to giving low-income women in the developing world access to the financial tools and resources they require to achieve security and prosperity. She joined Women’s World Banking in 2006 and leads the Women’s World Banking global team, based in New York, and also serves as a member of the Investment Committee of its two impact investment funds.

Mary Ellen is a passionate advocate for women’s economic empowerment through greater access to finance. She is a leading voice for the world’s one billion women not actively engaged with the financial sector, urging the banking industry to view this community as a powerful new market of small business owners, heads of households, and consumers of financial products and services.

Prior to Women’s World Banking, Mary Ellen worked for 17 years at the International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank. She had previously worked for the investment bank Lehman Brothers. Mary Ellen is a permanent member of the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as a member of the Women’s Forum of New York. She serves as a Director on the Board of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.A 2017 Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Fellow, Mary Ellen holds an MBA from the Yale School of Management and a Bachelor of Science in International Economics from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. She was recently recognized in the Forbes 50 over 50: Investment list, which highlights female investors and financial leaders. Her first book, There’s Nothing Micro About a Billion Women: Making Finance Work for Women, was published by MIT Press in April 2022.

Ep 50. Mary Ellen Iskenderian,

President & CEO Women's World Banking:

There's nothing micro about a billion women!

The world has come a long way since 1974 when women in America could not have their own bank account or checking account without their husband’s signature. The 1st United Nations World Conference on Women in 1975 and the subsequent creation of Women’s World Banking in 1979, have played a massive part in enabling women today to achieve financial independence and be economically empowered.

Mary Ellen Iskenderian has been at the helm of Women’s World Banking for 18 years. She joins us today to talk about how far we have come with respect to women’s financial inclusion, her organisation’s work in this area, particularly in low-income settings, and how far we have yet still to go. 

We talk about her book, ‘There’s Nothing Micro About a Billion Women’ - a reference to the nearly one billion women, who until a couple of years ago, were outside of formal financial systems - and how women’s financial inclusion is not just good for women and their families, but also, good for business, good for the resilience of the global economy, and essential to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  

Recorded May 2024. 

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