Jessica Jackley, an entrepreneur best known for co-founding Kiva shares her advice and takeaways.
In your experience, is microfinance an effective tool to fight gender equity in finance?
Yes! It is absolutely an effective tool to fight gender inequality. In a recent study published in the Applied Economics Letters by Quanda Zhang & Alberto Posso, they found that “an increase in the proportion of women accessing microfinance services by just 15% could potentially reduce gender inequality, as measured by the Gender Inequality Index, by half in the average developing nation.” And Elissa McCarter wrote in the University of Maryland Law Journal of Race, Religion, Gender and Class back in 2006 that “the last twenty years have shown that microfinance is a proven development tool capable of providing vast numbers of poor, particularly women, with sustainable financial services to support their livelihoods.” And of course, I’ve observed firsthand the increased self-confidence and sense of empowerment that many women feel after they’ve received a microloan, for instance.
All this said, I do recognize that there are cultural characteristics in certain countries that pose as barriers to reducing gender inequality and that micro-finance is not a be-all and end-all solution. But it’s an effective tool that is and should continue to be utilized to fight gender inequity in access to financial services.
When you founded Kiva, it faced some resistance. What would be your advice to aspiring change-makers who are keen to launch game-changing initiatives but fear failure and criticism?
My advice would be to not fear failure but fear doing nothing. Fear missing out on all you’ll learn in the process of trying. Within every piece of criticism is feedback that can help you improve your initiative. The best way to figure out if something is going to work or not is to just try it. My advice is to just start, test, experiment, iterate… and prove the naysayers wrong! And, if it ends up that your naysayers weren’t wrong, don’t worry about it. Just learn from the experience and try again. The only way you can “truly” fail is if you stop trying.
Your book “Clay Water Brick: Finding Inspiration from Entrepreneurs Who Do the Most with the Least” shares stories of resourceful entrepreneurs you met around the around world. What were your takeaways and what did you learn from them?
There are so, so many takeaways and learnings I have from my time meeting with these resourceful entrepreneurs all around the world. If I had to boil it down to a few though, there are three key learnings and takeaways I had. First, I learned to ask hard questions, and to go get answers for myself firsthand. Second, it is always worth getting closer to the people I want to understand so that I can hear their truths from them directly. Lastly, I realized that in order to explore or learn or do the things I’m passionate about, I can’t wait for permission. I just need to go do it.