This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Until she was 15, Ivanka Trump attended school with only girls, where the academics and culture focused on fostering strong female leaders of the future. I know because I attended the same school just a few years ahead of Ivanka.
Happily, it appears this female-centric ethos has led to one of Ivanka's first major contributions to her father's administration: playing an "instrumental" role in the creation of the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative ("We-Fi"), a World Bank facility focused on promoting women's entrepreneurship in developing countries.
The announcement of the We-Fi came as part of last week's G20 summit, but according to reports, Ivanka has been working with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim to shepherd the creation of the facility since the beginning of her father's administration. The facility will be responsible for directing $1 billion to advance women's entrepreneurship and access to capital around the world.
The United States has committed $50 million to the facility, the largest donation from any country, and will be joined by 12 other developed nations.
Ivanka left our alma mater for high school. If she had stayed she would have read, as I did, with Mrs. Rindin's 10th grade class "A Room of One's Own," an extended essay written by British novelist Virginia Woolf in 1929. In the essay, Woolf posits the existence of "Shakespeare's sister," a woman of infinite talent, even more than her brother. What does she lack to become a celebrated playwright in her own right? Resources. Specifically, a "room of her own," a place without distractions where a woman could live in her own mind and have the time and space to explore her inner world. This metaphorical room represents to Woolf all of the tangible and intangible support that women in the 17th century – and 20th century – lacked in pursuing their own goals: community encouragement, educational opportunities, financial sponsors, freedom from family obligations, time, space, the expectation of greatness.
In 21st century global terms, a room of one's own today means having the financial capital and the network to make things happen for yourself. And women are thousands of years behind in developing these resources for themselves. The World Bank's new We-Fi is one of the largest examples of institutional efforts to right this resource imbalance, but it merely caps a long and illustrious list of local and global programs.
One of the best recognized programs to increase women's access to financial capital is the Grameen Bank started by Muhammad Yunus, the "father of microcredit," in 1976. Although not specifically limited to women, Yunus quickly discovered that his rural microfinancing loans were going to 97 percent women and it has remained that way ever since. Women's economic impact is magnified by a "multiplier effect," meaning women are more likely than men to return earnings back into their communities, fostering prosperity and stability. Women are critical accelerators to economic and social progress.
On much headier scales, specific venture capital funds are popping up specifically to fund female-led businesses. Funds such as BBG Ventures and Female Founders Fund here in the U.S. look for female founders. Other initiatives, such as the Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program, powered by Bank of America, link women entrepreneurs to affordable loans. Considering that less than 5 percent of venture capital funds went to women-led companies in 2016, institutions such as these play a critical role in giving women the resources they need.
Here in Utah, we have our own burgeoning industry of female-focused networking and capital acquisition programs. Illuminate by Corporate Alliance seeks to connect and train women to rise in business management; the Braid Workshop series is a product of the Provo City Mayor's office and seeks to strengthen the female entrepreneurship community; and local chapters of nationwide mentorship groups such as PyLadies allow women in specific industries to create the networks and knowledge that lead ultimately to more capital and influence.
It is heartening to see that our all-female education rubbed off on Ivanka as it did on me. I hope she continues to be committed to using her global influence to create on a massive scale the capital and networks women need to advance. Many talented people are focusing on local and national efforts. She is one of few in a position literally to change the world.
Neylan McBaine is the CEO of the Seneca Council, a gender workplace consultancy, and a founder of Better Days 2020, a celebration of Utah's suffrage history.