How a Chicago Bank is Growing the Economy and Advancing Women in Business


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

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

First Women’s Bank is a one-of-a-kind, goal-driven bank with a mission to grow the economy and advance the role of women within it. The Bank is the only commercial bank founded, owned and managed by women, focused on serving the economy of women. It is also the first new bank in the state of Illinois in more than a decade.

“For our city and our economy to be the strongest, residents of all walks of life must have equal access to opportunity and capital,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “The First Women’s Bank is truly taking a big step forward in the fight for the empowerment and upliftment of women. I am grateful to President and CEO Marianne Markowitz and the entire team at First Women’s Bank for reaching out to help make Chicago and other cities across the country more equitable and inclusive. ”

The first bank of its kind

First women’s bank is the only commercial bank in the country founded, owned and led by women, whose mission is to grow the economy and advance the role of women within it. One of their main goals is to expand economic opportunities for the women’s economy and women-owned businesses.

“The story of this bank grew out of the basic idea that now is the time,” said Melissa Widen, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer. “It’s time for a financial institution that empowers women economically, that fights for financial inclusion and that is committed to equal access to opportunities, resources and networks and, above all, to capital. That’s why we created First Women’s Bank, the first commercial bank founded, owned and run by women, with a mission to grow the economy and advance the role of women within it. “

“And that’s an example of the power of networking,” added Amy Fahey, Co-Founder, Chairman of the Board. We didn’t know each other, but our networks overlapped and brought together not only our management team, but our experienced board of directors as well. “

The FWB strives to be more than a bank. In addition to providing innovative capital solutions to 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 provide a tangible support for the women’s economy.

Business women Support business women

Only 2.2% of all venture capital in the United States goes to companies founded only by women. In addition, companies with all-male founders receive funding after their first round almost 35% of the time. For companies with female founders, this number is less than 2%. This means that around 2% of women-owned businesses achieve $ 1 million in revenue, which is 3.5 times less than their male counterparts.

Additionally, a recent McKinsey analysis showed that women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic than men’s jobs, and there has been a lot of talk surrounding tackling loss of life. gendered employment of Covid-19.

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

Markowitz agrees. “We want to provide not only access to much-needed capital, but also the advisors, mentors, networks and resources that will power small businesses, entrepreneurs and the economy at large.

This does not mean that men will be left out. On the contrary, Markowitz shares that they believe in equality, not domination, inclusiveness, not exclusivity. They hope male clients, investors, mission partners, and employees will help them prosper and grow.

A bank with the power of the stars

On the day of the grand opening, Sophia Bush and Nia Batts were also announced are strategic advisers. Bush and Batts are seasoned entrepreneurs, equality activists and advocates with a passion for 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 amplify the power and challenges of the women’s economy, educate and activate women business owners, and help small businesses access accessible finance. and affordable.

“Of the 30 million small businesses in the United States, nearly 13 million, or 42%, are owned by women. Half of them are from women of color, ”said Batts. “Last year, women of color made up 89% of new businesses opened daily. Yet even though the number of women-owned businesses has grown twice as fast as the national average, they only receive 16% of all conventional business loans. , and women of color get much less. Now, more than ever, we need innovative business solutions to help close the racial and gender lending 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 this, they are still underfunded and underserved,” said Bush. “Just because women have proven that they can do more with less doesn’t mean they should. And when we do better, so does the economy.”

The others who join the Bank in this historic venture are a diverse group of over 200 investors, including Billie Jean King, Fidelity Investments and Bank of America. “A critical step towards achieving gender equality is creating economic parity and financial inclusion,” said King, investor and strategic advisor. “It requires closing racial and gender gaps in access to capital as we work to close these gaps and empower women from all walks of life to reach their full potential.”

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

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