JAMAICA – In order to encourage more women-led businesses to come up in the region, UN Women has collaborated with a US based equity fIrm to bring gender lens investing opportunities in the Caribbean. 

An MOU to this effect was signed recently between UN Women’s Multi Country Office in the Caribbean and Portland Private Equity, with 2XCollaborative also being a part of the partnership. The aim of this collaboration is to facilitate greater participation of women in the economic recovery of the region in the post-covid world while also providing women business owners with innovative financing options. 

On the occasion of the virtual signing of the MOU, UN Women’s regional director for the Americas and the Caribbean Maria-Noel Vaeza said, “Today is a pivotal day for UN Women and for the Caribbean as this MOU will implement gender lens financing with the Caribbean Basin Gender Equality Fund (the Gender Equality Fund), leading the region in gender equality investments across the wider Latin America and the Caribbean region.” 

She went on to inform three attendees that this fund would be the first such regional investment through the Global 2XCollaborative which was found by development finance institutions (DFIs) from the G7 countries. In fact, Portland Private Equity is also a part of 2XC. 

Talking about the benefits of gender lens investing the company’s managing director Doug Hewson said, “As a general partner of growth equity funds, our job is to attract, understand, do due diligence and influence the growth of our portfolio businesses and we think incorporating gender lens investing will help us find more interesting business in the region to invest in and in terms of value, we think that more diversity leads to better corporate cultures, better decisions and better outcomes. Failing to incorporate a gender lens is the equivalent of deliberately ignoring a key driver of business performance.” He went on to underline its economic impact by citing a report which conveyed that gender smart investing was more profitable, to the tune of $4.8 billion in 2019. 

In his keynote speech, Prime Minister of Belize John Brinceño expressed happiness over the increased isolation of women in education and the workforce. He believes the next step would be for more women to participate in the process of policy making to make a real difference. “Here at home, women are underrepresented in small and medium enterprises. The Covid-19 Socioeconomic Impact Assessment conducted by UNDP indicated that 83.9% of business owners in Belize are micro enterprise owners and that 55% of micro enterprise owners are women. Many women owned or led businesses continue to struggle with a lack of access to capital to develop and scale their businesses,” he informed. 

“Although women in the Caribbean are highly entrepreneurial, they struggle to access suitable finance and support for their businesses. Lack of access to capital is one of the main reasons women-led businesses fail and the region has the second highest failure rate of women-owned businesses globally,” sister Tonni Brodber from the UN Women Caribbean MCO.