FinDev Blog

"Our Time As Leaders Has Come"

A message from women leaders in financial inclusion to aspiring ones
Woman washer in India. Photo credit: Barun Rajgaria, 2017 CGAP Photo Contest.

In honor of International Women’s Day on 8 March, the Gateway got in touch with a few of the many dedicated, passionate women leaders in the financial inclusion industry. We wanted to hear from them: What message or advice would you give to women in the sector who would like to reach leadership positions in their institutions?

Andrée Simon, CEO Finca Impact FinanceAndrée Simon, CEO Finca Impact Finance

"1. Find champions! Identify peers and leaders who will support your development and work with them as much as possible.

2. Don’t aim for a title or authority – those are a result, but they shouldn’t be your goal.  Aim to add value through everything you do and you’ll find the first two will come to you much faster.

3. Be authentic and gracious.  You can’t be a great leader if you don’t have an inspired and empowered team to work with."

Maria Cavalcanti, President and CEO of Pro MujerMaria Cavalcanti, President & CEO of Pro Mujer

"We are finally witnessing an unprecedented -- and much delayed -- paradigm shift in leadership.  Our time as leaders has come.  We, the women of the world, are rising to serve as the new faces of the leadership class of the future. Whether you want to call this process “leaning in” or shattering the “glass ceiling,” we must not be afraid to strive for the leadership positions that we greatly deserve. We must not question our ability to succeed; rather, we must confidently accept our abilities and strong potential. We must set lofty goals and remain confident that we will accomplish them, no matter what challenges lie ahead.  As we execute this vision, we cannot -- we must not -- forget to lend a helping hand to the billions of other women who have a voice that is yet to be heard."

Sandy Salama, Marketing and Communications Manager, Lead Foundation, EgyptSandy Salama, Marketing and Communications Manager, Lead Foundation, Egypt

“Love what you do; get involved in every detail to understand how things work in your institution. Then take the initiative to create and find solutions to make things work better, sometimes you win and sometimes you learn. One of my priorities is to visit clients listen to them; understand their actual need to serve them better.”

Roshaneh Zafar, Founder and Managing Director of Kashf Foundation, PakistanRoshaneh Zafar, Founder and Managing Director of Kashf Foundation, Pakistan

"1. Authenticity - Believe in yourself and never give up: All leaders when they start out have one thing in common: they believe in themselves and have an ‘I can do this’ approach. They tend to shun out all negative thoughts and external forces telling them they cannot do something. In all situations they remain true to themselves.

2. Courage - Be a risk taker: In order to achieve certain dreams and goals, taking risks along the way is necessary. If you want to attain a leadership position- be courageous, take risks and be confident in your ability to carry out tasks. Having self-confidence is key.

3. Role Modeling - Actively seek out a mentor in the industry: A facilitating factor that helps women advance is through mentors because they serve as role models and inspire others to achieve their best potential. Remember someone out there has already solved your problem, so you just have to seek out the answer.

4. Reaching Out - Continue learning and never settle: At some point in life, external and internal forces will always come into play and hinder your path. It is important to continue building your skill set to evolve, adapt to changes and continuously improve as you advance in your career. Moreover, do not settle for anything less than you initially set out to do."

Maria Sanchez-Smith, Leadership and Diversity Specialist, Women’s World BankingMaria Sanchez-Smith, Leadership & Diversity Specialist, Women’s World Banking

“Find the time to reflect on your leadership vision. Professional women are constantly juggling multiple responsibilities and they don’t take the time to reflect on their career development goals. Map your path to leadership by identifying specific short and long-term goals, what drives and motives you, what fundamental core values you want to live, and what networks you need to build around you to get there.

Surround yourself with people that can be strategic partners in your career development. Finding a mentor is a great place to start, but a sponsor can use their own political capital to advocate for your career advancement. Finally, don’t forget to take calculated risks and take chances when opportunities present themselves. Confidence is key.”

Nadine Chehade, Regional Representative for MENA, CGAP

Nadine Chehade, Regional Representative for the Arab World, CGAP

"Be resilient. Striking the right personal-professional balance can be difficult. To me, resilience is building on the ups and learning from the downs, without lowering one's ambition."



Alia Farhat, Business Development Manager, Al Majmoua, Lebanon

Alia Farhat, Business Development Manager, Al Majmoua, Lebanon

“Dream big, remain focused on your objectives, keep passionate about your mandate, be very organized. Live your values and lead with values, as the best way to reach a leadership position is by practicing the behavior you want others to follow. As for the microfinance sector in particular, I would say: be curious, remain informed about the industry development as our sector moves fast, be innovative and don’t forget to remain customer centric as our primary beneficiaries are humans with needs, hope and most of all trust in our organizations.”

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