Why women must believe they can be anything

We’re so proud to partner for the third consecutive year with the European Investment Bank on the Women’s Solutions Reporting Award. In this piece, Yasmine Pagni, head of the social policy unit at the European Investment Bank, explains how transformative it can be when women believe they can be anything. 

 

I grew up thinking I could be anything. And a big part of my career allowed me to believe this too. After gaining a master’s degree in civil engineering, I worked in the transport sector, on big construction projects where I was sometimes the only woman. So I learnt early on to assert myself and realised how much I needed to advocate for women and our rights at the workplace. When I worked on road construction projects in Cameroon for the European Commission some years ago, I initiated conversations and projects with colleagues and local NGOs to tackle gender-based violence by building awareness. This topic was somewhat of a taboo at the time.

Later, when I worked as a transport engineer for the European Investment Bank, I focused on making sure that transport options for men and women were safe and offered equal possibilities.

In my current role as head of Social Policy at the European Investment Bank, I am well-positioned to play a meaningful and powerful role towards changing the world positively. With my team, we work to optimise the positive social impact of all the Bank’s projects and investments, placing individuals, human rights, and social inclusion at the centre of our efforts. Every day I pour my energy into work that is close to my heart and aligned with my values. 

As part of this, we have developed a Gender Strategy and Action Plan, for example, to ensure that our investments protect women, increase gender equality, create opportunities for women, and provide financial support for female entrepreneurs. We are also part of the 2X Challenge and have adopted the 2X Challenge criteria that is setting global standards for empowering women through investment.

The projects financed by the European Investment Bank contributing to gender equality and women’s economic empowerment have been steadily increasing every year. I was particularly proud of a digital transformation initiative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2023 that will guarantee equal access to digital skill training for women and girls. The initiative addresses systemic discrimination in skilled work and education, as well as women’s financial vulnerability.

We want this work to inspire. I truly believe in the power of stories about women to pave the path for so many who follow.

For this reason, among others, I am thrilled that the European Investment Bank is again supporting the Women’s Solutions Reporting Award with One World Media for the third consecutive year. It is crucial to showcase women and girls shaping our world, particularly those contributing to the improvement of women’s financial and economic inclusion, combating climate change, and expanding access to education and healthcare, all while empowering other women.

Taking action now to advance gender equality could add $13 trillion to global gross domestic product by 2030. Gender equality leads to faster economic development, higher income per capita, more efficient and effective businesses, more sustainable management of natural resources, social cohesion, peacebuilding and more stable societies overall.

While there is still more work to be done to achieve gender equality worldwide, I am hopeful that the stories chosen for the 2024 Women’s Solutions Reporting Award will inspire similar global initiatives and move us in the right direction. It will also encourage more women to believe, like I do, that they can be anything. This thinking is powerful because it fuels us to go beyond the limits we sometimes place on ourselves, and definitely past the ones society places on women.  

I look forward to announcing the winners in June.

 

Yasmine Pagni has headed the social policy unit at the European Investment Bank since 2019. 

Over the past 25 years she has worked to strengthen gender equality, women’s economic empowerment, the economic and social inclusion of vulnerable groups, and the protection of human rights. She contributed to the development of the EU social taxonomy led by the EU Platform on Sustainable Finance.

Before heading the social policy unit, Pagni worked on transversal policy and strategic topics, such as negotiating EIB lending mandates with the European Commission and conducting technical, environmental and social due diligence of projects financed by the Bank. From 1999 to 2008, she worked for the European Commission in Central Africa, coordinating the implementation of the Commission’s funding programmes in the transport sector, in close cooperation with other international financial institutions. Pagni holds a master’s degree in civil engineering from Imperial College London.