The WE Finance Code is a global commitment for systemic change to eliminate barriers for women entrepreneurs.  Based on the UK’s Investing in Women Code, the WE Finance model is designed to be a flexible, multi-stakeholder initiative that is fully customizable within adopters’ unique contexts.

For more clarifications, please visit the “Demystifying the WE Finance Code” primer and review the FAQs below:

1. What is the We Finance Code?

The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Code (the WE Finance Code or, simply, the Code) is a commitment by FSPs, regulators, development banks, and other financial ecosystem players to work together to increase funding provided to women-led micro, small and medium enterprises (WMSMEs) around the world, so that they can grow and add value to the economy and their communities.

2. What is required of Signatories of the Code?

To participate in the Code, FSPs sign a letter specifying their commitments related to leadership, action, and data: 1) Designating a member of their senior management team to champion the organizations’ efforts to support women-led businesses; 2) Expanding and introducing new measures that will support women entrepreneurs; and 3) Monitoring and reporting annually a commonly agreed set of indicators on the level of financing provided to WMSMEs or supporting others’ efforts to do so. After a one-year grace period from signing, they are expected to report progress on their commitments and on the Code’s core indicators annually to a trusted local entity.

Ecosystem partners are not required to collect and share data, but they are expected to support others using their own area of expertise.

3. Who can implement the Code?

There are local and global channels for participating in the Code:

  • In March 2024 We-Fi Implementing Partners are supporting 25+ countries to formulate a National Code Coalition and pilot the WE Finance Code in the Balkans, MENA, Central Asia, Asia Pacific, LAC and Africa.
  • Global organizations can become signatories of the global Code by making a simple public pledge committing to the Code’s three pillars around leadership, data and action.
  • Ecosystem partners are not required to collect and share data, but they are expected to support others in addressing data gaps by using their own area of expertise. If ecosystem participants are unable to become Code signatories, they may still participate, preferably by issuing a statement endorsing the Code that indicate how they will support the goals of the Code.

4. Why join the Code as an FSP?

Signing up to the Code can offer several benefits to FSPs:

  • Greater ability to reach an underserved growth segment
  • Recognition by clients, staff, investors, and ecosystem
  • Improved data-driven decision making and financial services for WMSMEs
  • Access to technical assistance, research, knowledge and data on financial inclusion and women’s entrepreneurship
  • Engagement with other Code participants including development banks, policy makers, FSPs in peer learning forums and events

5. Why join the Code as a National Regulator?

Signing up to the Code can offer several benefits to National actors:

  • Reduced inequality between female and male entrepreneurs
  • Increased productivity and labor force participation, especially by women
  • Increased financial inclusion of WMSMEs
  • Improved data and data-driven policymaking
  • Improved incentives and alignment across the ecosystem
  • More diverse leadership in the financial sector

6. Why join the Code as an Ecosystem Partner?

Signing up to the Code can offer several benefits to Ecosystem partners (e.g. donors, technical service providers, researchers, associations):

  • More impact and gender-lens investment
  • Greater gender equality and women’s economic empowerment & leadership
  • Increased harmonization and standards globally
  • Stronger evidence, data and know how related to sex-disaggregated data

7. Which countries are eligible to implement the Code?

Any country can formulate a National Code Coalition building on public-private partnerships, and implement the WE Finance Code by committing to the 3 pillars of the Code and agreeing to report their progress annually. In March 2024 We-Fi Implementing Partners are supporting the following countries to pilot the WE Finance Code: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Fiji, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyz Republic, Madagascar, Mongolia, Morocco, Montenegro, Mozambique, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

8. What is required of Country Codes?

To ensure the Code has strong cross-industry support and buy-in, a broad National Coalition of 8–12 stakeholders is needed to help design, endorse, and support the rollout of the Code in the country. Coalition members can include regulators, FSPs, industry associations, and other ecosystem partners. They are responsible for making a public declaration to launch the Code in the country. The Coalition should meet briefly but regularly to endorse the initiative, appoint the National Coordinator and Aggregator, agree on Code parameters, monitor progress, and address obstacles. A coalition may be established for this purpose or an existing body can take on the Code as part of its mandate.

9. What is the origin of the Code?

The Code was developed collaboratively with finance leaders from over 30 private and public sector organizations. It draws on lessons from the UK Investing in Women Code and builds on efforts to close finance and data gaps affecting women entrepreneurs.

10. Who coordinates the Code?

The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), housed in the World Bank, coordinates the Code with its Implementing Partners and other global partners, such as the Financial Alliance for Women and OECD. A Global Advisory Group advises on implementation and governance.

The Implementing Partners (African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Inter-American Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank, and World Bank Group) are actively facilitating the implementation of the Code across over 25 pilot countries presently engaged in its adoption. Moreover, these partners are undertaking supplementary activities, including collaboration with international standard-setting entities, development of knowledge resources, provision of technical support, investment facilitation, and deployment of performance-based incentives, among others.

11. What is the WE Finance Code Community of Champions?

The Community of Champions is a prestigious community of influential leaders gathering Code Anchors from all pilot countries. The COC will ensure good practices are identified, codified and shared across Code implementation countries positioning its members as global Champions and supporting their success in that role.

12. Who can join the Community of Champions?

National Champions are asked to join the WE Finance Code Community of Champions, an international peer learning community. These are leaders from up to 5 organizations per country, including key public, private, and civil society institutions, such as regulators, industry associations, and leading FSPs. They will bring their own passion for women’s financial inclusion to the job and help tailor the Code’s framework to domestic realities, set the vision for the Code in the national context, convene key stakeholders, ensure the effort is sufficiently resourced and drive action.  Members will gather for four 90-minute webinar sessions and 1 in person meeting per year.

Champions may be men or women, but the Code provides a vehicle for elevating new faces of leadership and celebrating women’s leadership.  National Champions, especially women, recognize that the Code provides opportunities for visibility and leadership nationally and globally, as well as peer learning and network-building with other leaders from around the world.

13. How does the Code define women-led MSMEs?

Existing definitions of women entrepreneurship show a diverse landscape, assessing different aspects to capture the essence of a women entrepreneurship. Most existing definitions offer two or three alternative approaches, combining ownership percentages with the representation of women in decision-making positions. The WE Finance Code offers flexibility to countries to define WSMEs based on national context, providing the following guidance in line with other organizations working with Women Entrepreneurs:

14. What data is required to be reported?

The following core indicators must be disaggregated by sex of the entrepreneurs and also by SME vs. Micro enterprise size, and reported by Code signatories:

  • MSME customers #
  • MSME outstanding loans #$
  • MSME loan applications and approvals #$
  • MSME NPLs %
  • MSME deposits and depositors #$

Further, strongly recommended indicators to collect to strengthen the business case are:

  • New MSME loans disbursed (#/$)
  • MSME collateralized loans (#/$)
  • MSME short-term loans (#/$)
  • MSME products per customer (#/$)

15. What support is provided to implement the Code in a country?

We-Fi has developed various guidelines and tools that can be adapted to country contexts to lay out the basic parameters of the Code and answer questions from prospective National Champions; these resources can be found on the Code website under ‘News and Resources’. They articulate the business case for investing in women-led MSMEs and the constraints they face, introduces the Code and its benefits to FSPs, regulators and broader ecosystem and describes how to launch the Code in a country and the role of a Champion. The standard pitch can be customized with existing information about the local market to help size the opportunity, identify complementary initiatives, and map the data ecosystem. To further support the successful implementation of the Code in country, We-Fi is rolling out a global learning agenda across implementing countries that will ensure good practices are identified, codified and shared.

16. What support is provided to signatories of the Code?

We-Fi, together with the Financial Alliance for Women and the OECD, work with IPs and other partners to coordinate knowledge sharing. A global peer learning platform will be established in 2024 with different tracks for Community of champions; FSP leaders and Data Specialists. As a Global Coordinator, We-Fi provides templates, tools, additional materials through the Code website and peer learning events to signatories to enable efficient launch of the Code. Business intelligence teams who produce the data and business managers who use the data can particularly benefit from training on collecting and analyzing sex-disaggregated data. The We-Fi Secretariat will be sharing a quarterly Communiqué, discussing latest Code related updates, news of upcoming events and tools to use. The Financial Alliance for Women will organize a peer learning series, tackling the main steps to developing a WMSMEs strategy.

17. What are the timelines for implementing the Code?

Initial pilots of the Code are launching in 2024, followed by an active onboarding campaign over the following years. It is expected to take around 2 years for each country to complete the design and onboarding of its signatories.  We-Fi will evaluate the progress of its pilots after 2 years, the goal is for each country continue to operate the Code and track commitments on an ongoing basis.  Pilot countries are expected to provide annual inputs to the Code’s global progress reports for five years, starting in 2025 with information for the WE Finance Code Inception Report and global annual reports thereafter until 2030.

18.What if my FSP / Government Agency does not have the data required?

The Code provides a grace period of up to 12 months for financial service providers to categorize women-led businesses and make system upgrades to enable sex-disaggregated reporting for MSMEs. After a grace period, participants will provide annual updates on their commitments, including all data required of Signatories, and any optional data.

19. What are some good examples of implementing the Code? Which countries/FSPs can we look up to for inspiration?

The Best Practices shared in the Community of Champions build off the first country to implement a Code, the United Kingdom, and be complemented with advances made in the first three additional countries to adopt a Code—the Dominican Republic, Indonesia and the Netherlands. As pilots in other countries advance, their insights will be added to learning content.

20. How does the WE Finance Code relate to the Women Empowerment Principles?

The Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) are a set of Principles offering guidance to businesses on how to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace, marketplace and community. By joining the WEPs community, CEOs signal commitment to this agenda to foster business practices that empower women. Signing up to the WE Finance Code can complement joining the WEP, as fulfilling Code commitments can be a vehicle for delivering on the gender equality dimensions agreed to under the WEP Principles.

21. How does the WE Finance Code relate to Global 2X criteria and certification program?

2X Global’s gender-smart investment and impact assessment framework called the 2X Criteria is a global standard for gender lens investing. The WE Finance Code aligns with one of the 2X Criteria, focused on Entrepreneurship.

Governments and FSPs signing up to the Code can benefit from the methodology of the 2X criteria on Entrepreneurship, as part of their commitment to the Code.