How a Chicago bank boosts the economy and empowers women in business


On September 22, 2021, First Women’s Bank (FWB) celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony at its flagship location in Chicago. The bank also announced its mission partners, which include Aon, Wendy’s, Comcast, William Blair, and the Western Golf Association / Evans Scholars Foundation (WGA). Your support will help create accessible, affordable finance to bridge the gender credit gap.

“Women have led an economic revolution in this country, but the gender gap in access to capital is ubiquitous and persistent,” said CEO Marianne Markowitz. “First Women’s Bank’s potential to drive social change and bridge the gender-racial lending gap is enormous. We will draw strength from our partners in this effort.”

First Women’s Bank is a unique, purpose-built bank that aims to grow the economy and advance the role of women in it. The bank is the only women-founded, women-run, and women-run commercial bank focused on serving the women’s economy. It is also the first new bank in the state of Illinois in more than a decade.

“In order for our city and economy to thrive, residents from all walks of life must have equal access to opportunity and capital,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “First Women’s Bank is really taking a tremendous step forward in the struggle to empower and empower women. I am grateful to President and CEO Marianne Markowitz and the entire First Women’s Bank team for their training on the world of Chicago and other cities across the country. equitable and inclusive. ”

The first bank of its kind

First Women’s Bank is the only women-founded, women-run, and women-run commercial bank in the country with the aim of strengthening the economy and promoting the role of women in it. One of their main goals is to expand economic opportunities for the women and women-run businesses.

“This bank’s story was born from the basic idea that this is the time,” said Melissa Widen, Co-Founder and Chief Administrative Officer. “That’s the moment for a financial institution that empowers women economically, strives for financial inclusion and advocates equal access to opportunities, resources and networks and above all to capital. That is why we created First Women’s Bank, the first women-founded, women-run commercial bank with the aim of strengthening the economy and promoting the role of women in it. “

“And it’s an example of the power of networks,” added Amy Fahey, co-founder and chairman of the board. We didn’t know each other, but our networks overlapped and brought not only our management team, but also our experienced board of directors together. “

The FWB wants to be more than a bank. In addition to providing innovative capital solutions for small businesses, the bank has created the FWB collective, a community of resources, support and inspiration for small businesses and a platform for individuals and organizations to specifically support the women’s economy.

Women in business Support for women in business

Only 2.2% of all US venture capital goes to women-only companies. In addition, companies with purely male founders receive funding in almost 35% of the cases after the first round. For companies with female founders, this figure is less than 2%. This means that roughly 2% of women-run businesses ever generate $ 1 million in revenue, which is 3.5 times less than that of their male counterparts.

Additionally, a recent McKinsey analysis showed that women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable than men’s jobs during the coronavirus pandemic, and there has been a lot of talk about addressing gender job loss from Covid-19.

“Women are leading an economic revolution in this country, but just as there are gender gaps in leadership and pay, there is a gender gap in access to capital and we intend to resolve it.” Said Widen.

Markowitz agrees. “Not only do we want to provide access to much-needed capital, but also to advisors, mentors, networks and resources that advance small businesses, entrepreneurs and the economy at large.”

That’s not to say that men are left out. On the contrary, Markowitz shares that they believe in equality, not dominance, inclusivity, not exclusivity. They hope that male customers, investors, mission partners, and co-workers will help them thrive and grow.

A bank with star power

On the day of the grand opening, Sophia Bush and Nia Batts Strategic consultants were also announced. Bush and Batts are veteran entrepreneurs, activists, and advocates of equality, passionate about closing racial and gender gaps in pay, leadership, and the lesser-known gender gap in access to capital. As strategic advisors to First Women’s Bank, they will help empower the power and challenges of the women’s economy, train and activate women entrepreneurs, and connect small businesses to accessible, affordable resources.

“Of the 30 million small businesses in the US, nearly 13 million, or 42%, are owned by women. Half of those are owned by women of color,” Batts said. “Last year, women of color made up 89% of businesses opening every day. Although the number of businesses run by women has grown twice as fast as the national average, they receive only 16% of all traditional business credit, and women of color receive significantly less. Now, more than ever, we need innovative business solutions to bridge the racial and gender credit gaps, and Sophia and I are incredibly honored to join First Women’s Bank on this shared mission. “

“Women are leading the economic revolution in this country, but despite that, they are still underfunded and underserved,” Bush said. “Just because women have proven they can do more with less doesn’t mean they have to. And if we do better, so will the economy. “

Others who join the bank on this historic project are a diverse group of more than 200 investors, including Billie Jean King, Fidelity Investments, and Bank of America. “A critical step in achieving gender equality is creating economic equality and financial inclusion,” says King, an investor and strategic advisor. “This requires addressing the racial and gender gaps in access to capital as we work to fill those gaps and empower women from all walks of life to reach their full potential.”

And while the focus is on maintaining, funding, and supporting women-owned businesses, Markowitz points out that everyone wins when women win in business. “Small business owners support their families, their employees and their communities – we founded First Women’s Bank to support them,” explains Markowitz. “When women-owned businesses thrive, families win, communities thrive, and jobs are created.”


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