Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

What Control Groups Can't Tell You: Microfinance and Women's Empowerment

Jun 09, 2010
institutional sponsor: 
United States Agency for International Development


On Wednesday, June 9, USAID’s Microenterprise Development office hosted its 42nd After Hours Seminar, “What Control Groups Can’t Tell You: Microfinance and Women’s Empowerment.” Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking, discussed the challenges facing microfinance evaluation in the context of women’s empowerment.



Mary Ellen Iskenderian
Mary Ellen Iskenderian
Women’s World Banking

Mary Ellen IskenderianMary Ellen Iskenderian is President

Mary Ellen Iskenderianand CEO of Women’s World Banking (WWB), 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 40 top-performing microfinance institutions and banks in 28 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 74 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.