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Business as a Bridge to Girls' Empowerment: What Does it Take?


Why invest in girls?

According to UNESCO estimates and International Labour Organisation (ILO) data, 130 million girls between the age of 6 and 17 are out of school today, and 15 million girls of primary-school age – half of them in sub-Saharan Africa – will never get the chance to learn to read or write in primary school. Women’s participation in the global labour market is nearly 27 percentage points lower than for men, and women’s labour force participation fell from 52 percent in 1990 to 49 percent in 2017.

But, when girls have the freedom to learn, earn, and save, their health and well-being increases, they become empowered to make their own decisions and take control of their own lives. And when girls are empowered, whole families become stronger both economically and socially, student numbers increase, agricultural productivity increases, while rates of child marriage, teen pregnancy, and HIV/AIDS fall.

Join our discussion

This International Day of the Girl, we recognise that the time to invest in women and girls is now. This event will bring together projects and organisations that support business models and social innovations that empower adolescent girls and young women in markets where they are often marginalised.

Speakers will share their stories, ideas and knowledge on the role that businesses can play in creating impact for girls, helping girls overcome challenges and providing tools for them to thrive.

Questions the panel will consider:

  • Why should businesses adopt more of a gender lens?
  • What are the barriers to businesses designing products and services to impact girls?
  • What are the ways for businesses to unlock potential girl impact?
  • What is the role of funders and donors in supporting businesses that achieve development impact and help girls thrive?


We will welcome inspiring speakers from the private sector, the donor community and organisations that work with businesses to empower girls.

  • Suzanne Biegel - Founder of Catalyst at Large Ltd
  • Francesca Brown - Head, Global Community Programmes at Standard Chartered Bank
  • Julie Cobill - Innovation Portfolio Manager at Unilever
  • Vikrant Pandey - CEO of Fightback Nepal, a business supported by the SPRING Accelerator
  • Julisa Tambunan – Director of GirlSPARKS

Speaker Bios
Suzanne Biegel is a globally recognised investor, consultant, and thought leader in gender lens investing. She is passionate about investing in women and advancing the lives of women and girls globally. Suzanne is the Investment Director for SPRING Accelerator. Her consultancy Catalyst at Large advises a range of institutional impact investors moving capital with a gender lens. She is also Senior Gender Lens Investing Advisor at the Wharton Social Impact Initiative at the Wharton Business School. Suzanne is a member of the global impact investing community, Toniic.
Francesca Brown is Head of Community Programmes globally for Standard Chartered, focused on empowering the next generation to learn, earn and grow through the three pillars of education, employability and entrepreneurship. With a professional background in international development, public affairs and compliance, Francesca re-joined Standard Chartered in August 2018.Most recently, Francesca was Head of Profession for the Private Sector Development cadre of advisors at the UK Department for International Development (DFID).
Julie Cobill leads social enterprise partnerships and inclusive business model development at Unilever, including the multi-partner initiative TRANSFORM to support market-based innovations in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Julie was previously an Investment Manager with UK social investment fund CAF Venturesome and a LGT Venture Philanthropy Impact Fellow.

Vikrant Pandey is the Founder of Fight Back Nepal. He initially starting out in the IT sector and decided to become an entrepreneur in 2009 with the ambition to set up an enterprise that would give back to society. As an avid martial artist and father to a daughter he combined his passion and entrepreneurial spirit to create the sexual violence risk reduction program 'Fight Back' which has empowered 7000+ women and girls across Nepal, and educated boys and men on issues of constent and how to help protect girls and women. Fight Back goes beyond 'self defense' to enhance girls' mental, vocal and physical skills to reduce the risk of sexual violence.

Julisa Tambunan is the Director of GirlSPARKS, a start-up that provides girl-centred design training and coaching to help organisations, businesses, and individuals to reach and engage adolescent girls –particularly the most marginalised, in the right way. Julisa brings 15 years of experience working with adolescent girls globally to the role, both in public and private sectors.


17:15 -17:30: Arrivals

17.30 - 19.00: Moderated discussion, video, Q&A

19.00: Drinks reception and hors d’oeuvres