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Inez Murray, CEO GBA, Ruby of the Month, July 2013

10 July 2013

Inez Murray

Inez Murray spent a nail-biting month watching civil unrest and violence unfold in Turkey. The GBA’s annual summit to discuss wealth creation for women, most specifically in the SME sector, was to have taken place in mid June in the Turkish capital, Istanbul.

“Everything was ready but as we watched the violence escalate safety became our priority and we had to postpone. Now, it’s a matter of unpacking the boxes in September,” explains Inez, who was googling Istanbul daily for news.

“Just the other night I typed in Istanbul to check my decision to postpone had been vindicated, and got a Viagra ad,” says Inez, who remains “calm and very Zen” about the decision to put the summit on hold.

“It’s such a pity,” she exclaims, “not for us but for Turkey. The violence is a tragedy. I know Turkey was looking forward to joining the European Economic Union. The unrest will put that back,” believes Inez.

Born in Ireland, Inez Murray now lives in the United States. As a young woman, and having done some work experience in the US while in college, she decided to put the luck of her countrymen to the test and enter America’s famous Green Card lottery.

(Green Cards grant the holder lawful permanent residency, allowing them to live and work in the US, and they have long been awarded on a lottery like basis.)

Inez was successful and in 1990 began working for Booz Allen Hamilton, management consultancy, in business strategy development. She remained with them for a number of years before doing a Masters in International Economic Development at Columbia University.

“I think before you can settle to a career you need to find your internal values – what makes you tick,” she says, explaining her “winding path” to the GBA role.

“My passion,” she explains, “is finance and women. It gives me the chance to apply a lot of business techniques to solve a problem and be of social benefit.

“If you were to choose an intervention that supports women, for me, it’s about enabling them to generate their own wealth.

“Financial independence allows people to make their own decisions. That’s an important reality,” Inez continues, explaining her switch from Booz to Women’s World Banking, a network of institutions that offer microfinance with the focus on women, and eventually her new role with the GBA working to increase female access to finance at the SME level.

“I am also fascinated by how you get women access to finance and make it appealing to businesses,” admits Inez.

Any strategy, she believes, must include developing a language around the issue that appeals to people’s sense of business, and this is an area in which, Inez says, Westpac excels.

“Larke Riemer, from Westpac Women’s Markets and the GBA’s former Chair and global ambassador, cleverly positions GBA work as a business proposition that deals with an emerging powerful new economy, the female economy. Words like ‘gender’ and ‘empowerment’, which can alienate some people, sit back in the conversation for development at a later, deeper level,” explains Inez.

Women play a significant role in private sector development. In most developing countries, research shows women make up 30 to 40 percent of entrepreneurs running small or medium sized businesses. Reports, such as the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s 2010 Women’s report, or the more recently released Gender GEDI (Global Entrepreneurship Development Index), in which Australia came second out of 17 countries for female entrepreneurship development, have found that there’s no entrepreneurial gap between female and male entrepreneurs. Globally, the gap between male and female entrepreneurs is circumstantial – it’s in access to finance, information, education and networking.

Government commitment to supporting SME finance and women is not just the domain of developing countries. In the UK and Ireland, where people are coming out of the financial crises and want new business initiatives, supporting SMEs and women’s access to credit is proving to be a great way to open new markets. The work of the GBA is instrumental in this process, and Westpac’s Women’s Markets experience has been fundamental in the development of the process.

Westpac, Inez says, has been vigilant in its work to understand the economic contribution of women and to that end, collects and tracks business information, disaggregating data along gender lines.

“The data collection is unique and the organisation’s willingness to map out with the GBA how you design and implement a women’s market program means our member banks can leap frog forward. Off the back of organisations such as Westpac they get to skirt the mistakes you usually make when you are the first to develop a program,” explains Inez.

Simply, there are four tenets needed to support women’s wealth creation. According to the research and Inez’s experience, they apply whether you are a farmer in Uganda or a sweetshop owner in Sydney. They are access to finance, education, information, and networks.

“I don’t like to put labels on behaviours, and people, but there are some universal truths for women,” says Inez, whose evening has included a trip to the pool, dinner and helping put her children to bed, putting out the garbage, speaking with Ruby for this interview and maybe a bit more work before collapsing into bed.

Firstly, women have competing responsibilities and are time constrained. These varied responsibilities, and especially in conjunction with lack of time, can make women seem more risk averse, and that may manifest in a lower propensity to borrow or to borrow smaller amounts.

“That situation might mean you have less knowledge or understanding of the role leveraging your business can play in further growth and success, and of some aspects of financial management. It’s a scenario that could then affect your borrowing profile,” explains Inez of the snowballing effect responsibility and time scarcity can have on women in business.

Access to information and education are important because they support women to feel more comfortable to push to the next level. Education and information can also bolster confidence with numbers, and support women to engage in more sophisticated business concepts and strategies.

Secondly, according to research, women like to learn from each other and in a setting that is about forming relationships. Networking and networking opportunities generate feelings of belonging, provide support, and form places where women can add value. They become important forums for women to learn to be bold.

Finally, there is access to finance. This comes with its own set of problems, especially in areas where culture has traditionally made such access difficult. As Inez points out, this is not just the domain of the developing world.

“At some point in the journey,” she acknowledges, “everyone has to unpack their biases to see the affects they have on others. The question is what can organisations do to loosen up the process and work around criteria to make the loans more accessible. It really comes down to understanding your customer and wanting to work with them.

“Another thing, I’ve noted, is the businesses women tend to be in are often in sectors that don’t appear to create the most value. The effect of that is to create a huge gap in venture capital interest. The push from G20 nations and governments to redress the balance is overt and will bring change.”

As for Inez’s personal wins in her new role, she has in the past six months seen GBA revenues triple. There are six new members and six hot prospects and she says: “The amount of interest Westpac and the GBA are generating globally is amazing. It’s by engaging people in the business proposition that we’re able to ensure women’s wealth creation remains on the agenda, and we will see success.”