Mary Ellen Iskenderian
President and CEO, Women's World Bank
01:02

Microfinance Helps Women Help Society

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The role of women is absolutely central to financial stability and household stability.

Mary Ellen Iskenderian

Mary Ellen Iskenderian is President and CEO of Women’s World Banking, the world’s largest network of microfinance institutions and banks. Ms. Iskenderian leads the WWB global team, based in New York, in providing hands-on technical services and strategic support to 39 top-performing microfinance institutions and banks in 27 countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. WWB’s network members consistently rate among the top three microfinance institutions in their countries and 82 percent of their clients are poor women entrepreneurs.

Ms. Iskenderian, who joined WWB in 2006, has more than 20 years of experience in building global financial systems throughout the developing world. Ms. Iskenderian is a leading voice for women’s leadership and participation in microfinance, and a strong advocate for the role of capital markets in the sector. She has spoken widely on microfinance at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Wharton and at numerous industry and banking forums including the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, the Council on Foreign Relations and European Microfinance Week 2009. She has been profiled in Forbes magazine and the Wall Street Journal and is frequently quoted in the media, including Reuters, Newsweek, Time, BBC News and Voice of America.
Her recent awards include the 2009-2010 NYU Stern’s Distinguished Citi Fellowship in Leadership and Ethics, the 2009 Isabel Benham Award from the Women’s Bond Club, and the companion 2009 Women’s Finance Award given by the Institute of Financial Services at Lucerne University, Switzerland.

Prior to WWB, Ms. Iskenderian worked for 17 years in senior management at the International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank, where her numerous leadership positions included Director of Partnership Development, Director of the Global Financial Markets Portfolio and Director of the South Asia Regional Department. Previously, she worked for the investment bank Lehman Brothers.

Ms. Iskenderian is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Board of Kashf Microfinance Bank in Pakistan. She 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.

Transcript

Mary Ellen Iskendarian: I had a fair amount of background in microfinance in my previous positions.  I was running South Asia for the World Bank at the time of 9/11, and the first post-9/11 investment that we made was in a microfinance bank in Pakistan and really felt that that was an important signal, an important message.  And so I was drawn to WWB because of microfinance.

But the lesson that I’ve learned, and what I really, I sort of regret having missed so many years of my life not knowing this, was just how absolutely central the role of women is to financial stability, to household stability.  If kids are going to get to school and stay in school and have food to eat while they’re there and remain healthy while they’re there, it’s because the women are going to make that happen.  And I had not made that connection before coming to Women’s World Banking.

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd


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