Only 22 percent of Mexican women have an account in a formal institution: World Economic Forum 2013

The development of strong female leadership, particularly in microfinance institutions, is seen as a critical need for the advancement of low-income women entreprenuers. To foster and develop this pipeline of women leaders, MetLife Foundation and Women's World Banking launched the "Women in Leadership" five-day program in Mexico City.

Women's World Banking is a network of microfinance institutions with a common commitment to serve women as clients, innovation agents and leaders. Strong leadership is seen as essential to design and launch innovative and sustainable products, targeted at low-income women.

"Undoubtedly, accessible, well-designed and fairly-priced financial services have the potential to, literally, transform lives," said Carmina Abad, ceo of MetLife Mexico and president of MetLife Foundation in Mexico. "The program will enrich the professional development of participants and will provide progress opportunities to disadvantaged sectors of society across Latin America. This initiative aligns with the Foundation's strategy to promote financial inclusion by providing underserved individuals with access to knowledge and the financial tools they need to help them pursue more from life," she added.

Since 2006, 252 women from 109 microfinance institutions in 56 countries have completed the course, which provides opportunities to analyze their leadership style and design a personal development plan.

"Leadership plays an irreplaceable role to drive the necessary changes to include women in the formal financial sector. This program allows women to strengthen their leadership, grow in their organizations and better serve their customers' needs," said Mary Ellen Iskendarian, president and CEO, Women's World Banking.

According to the World Economic Forum's 2013 Global Gender Gap Report, only 22 percent of Mexican women have an account in a formal banking institution, which underscores the need to develop female leaders in financial institutions that have the ability to serve low-income customers. The same report shows that Mexican women represent only 15 percent of high-level executives and seven percent of the membership of management committees in publicly traded companies.

The "Women in Leadership" program focuses on this low female presence, providing women with the necessary skills to develop their leadership. In Mexico, the program will receive over 20 women with five to 20 years of professional experience, who are motivated to accept new challenges and leadership opportunities, and who represent microfinance institutions from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru and Dominican Republic.

During the five-day workshop, participants will reflect on microfinance, leadership styles, organizational culture, diversity, negotiation, networking and best practices to meet the financial needs of their communities.

"Through this valuable program, women will be better prepared to offer their customers the essential resources so that they can protect and improve the lives of their families, business and communities," said Sylvia Hernández, Executive Director of Corporate Strategy and Business Planning at MetLife Mexico.

About MetLife Foundation 
MetLife Foundation was created in 1976 to continue MetLife's long tradition of corporate contributions and community involvement. Today, the Foundation is dedicated to advancing financial inclusion, committing $200 million over the next five years to help build a secure future for individuals and communities around the world. MetLife Foundation is affiliated to MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET), a leading global provider of insurance, annuities and employee benefit programs. MetLife holds leading market positions in the United States, Japan, Latin America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. To learn more about MetLife Foundation, visit .