EIB Institute Director Shiva Dustdar: Power of womens stories

EIB Institute Director Shiva Dustdar: Power of women's stories

 May 03, 2023

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Director & Head of the European Investment Bank Institute, Shiva Dustdar, looks at how the Women’s Solutions Reporting Award draw upon women’s stories to help forge a more inclusive world.

The Women’s Solutions Reporting Award is hosted by One Word Media, and sees the EIB Group as a key partner.

Shiva herself is a long-time advocate for women's equality and works tirelessly in helping forge a more inclusive world. Shiva in fact is the first woman to lead the EIB Group's Institute. 

Redesigning the world so people thrive equally 

European Investment Bank One World Media

Activist and journalist Caroline Criado Perez says: "We live in a world designed by men, for men."

"I believe that if we want to change the world and make it more inclusive, we need to redesign it so that all people thrive equality. Art, culture and media can show us the way. Journalists and filmmakers, in particular, have the ability to present the world as it is now—and as it could be in the future," comments Shiva. 

"That’s why I am very proud that the European Investment Bank is supporting the Women’s Solutions Reporting Award with One World Media."

Shiva highlights that we need to hear stories of women who are improving other women’s financial and economic inclusion. "Women who are helping fight climate change, and are increasing access to education and healthcare. We want to hear stories of how women are changing the world."

From Iran to the EU bank

Shiva's parents left Iran in the 1960s in search of a better life. "Thanks to them, I had access to inspiring opportunities and role models—things I may not have had, otherwise," Shiva explains.

"It might be because of my background that, even in my business career, I’ve always been attracted to innovation and creating growth."

In Shiva's role at the EU bank, she wants to help people bring new ideas to life. "For example, after setting up financing schemes for entrepreneurs, we discovered that many weren’t yet investment-ready and needed additional support. This led to the creation of the Innovation Finance Advisory division, which I had the privilege to set up and scale up, until it became a key pillar of the Bank’s advisory services. We also advised entrepreneurs who wouldn’t think of seeking our financing, but who were working on exciting solutions."

What caught Shiva's attention in that role was that very few of the Bank's clients were women entrepreneurs. This prompted the EIB to actively to look for them, to tell them about the type of support the Bank offers and the kind of financial instruments they have at their disposal. "They couldn’t look for something they don’t know about, after all," comments Shiva.

Women’s investment solutions

A number of years ago, the European Investment Bank launched the SheInvest initiative to mobilise €1 billion in investments that help women get loans and run businesses across Africa. At the end of 2022, at the Finance in Common Summit, the Bank extended its initiative to mobilise another €2 billion of gender-lens investment in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

"To help women obtain financial support, we designed an EIB Group Strategy and a Gender Action Plan. We are also part of the 2X Challenge and adopted its criteria, which sets global standards for empowering women through investment," explains Shiva. "Women still earn around 25 per cent less than men. Nearly a billion women can’t get loans to start a business, and they can’t open a bank account to save money. Advancing women’s equality in banking and the workplace could add as much as $28 trillion to the global economy by 2025."

"I hope that one day, when we live in a truly equal world, such initiatives won’t be needed anymore," Shiva explains. 

"The road to equality starts with seeing women’s stories in the media—the kind we’re trying to highlight with the Women’s Solutions Reporting Award. It’s an important step, so women everywhere are reminded that where you come from doesn’t determine how far you go."

A strong focus on gender smart investing

Shiva has over 28 years of experience in the financial industry working for large private and public institutions in New York, London and Luxembourg. Since joining the EIB in 2003, Shiva has worked in risk management, lending, investing and advising in innovative companies.

Shiva lastly headed the Innovation Finance Advisory (IFA) Division in the EIB which she built and scaled up into a successful innovation financing advisory programme covering green, digital, space, gender-smart and health-related sectors.

Shiva started her career in 1993 at J.P. Morgan Investment Banking in New York working in M&A, Project Finance and Emerging Markets before joining Fitch Rating Agency in 1999 to set up its European High Yield rating business. She holds a BA (Magna cum Laude) in Economics from Columbia University and an Executive MBA from London Business School (LBS).

Shiva is a regular speaker on innovation and impact financing, gender smart investing, digital and green financing. She is actively engaged in networks that promote sustainable and mission-oriented financing.

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