Christine Savino is a junior at the University of Connecticut pursuing dual degrees in Business and Political Science. She is the founder and CEO of Her Global Initiative, a social and financial enterprise that provides impoverished women with micro-credit and business educations. Her Global Initiative empowers women and helps them find financial independence which increases education rates, invigorates economies, and creates jobs. The venture has touched over 7,000 women to date, and will continue to expand and empower women around the world.
What is your background?
Christine Savino: I am a Junior pursuing dual degrees in Business Management and Political Science at UConn. I started Her Global Initiative, a micro-credit organization, because I wanted to empower impoverished women on a macro scale. Especially since 70% of those living in extreme poverty around the world are female, I truly didn’t want to cap my impact to only my university or community. I knew that I was going to help women internationally.
I am also the co-founder of the advocacy groups the Student Coalition for Social Justice and Women’s Legacy. Additionally, I stay active on campus through the Undergraduate Student Government’s External Affairs Committee, University Senate, Model United Nations, Pi Beta Phi CT Alpha, Dean’s Advisory Group, Honors Board of Directors Honors Council, Honors Program, Humane Society, African American Cultural Center, and Women’s Center. I was also humbled to be one of Her Campus’ 2016 most inspiring college women in the nation and elected as the first female undergraduate Trustee at my university.
You are the Founder of Her Global Initiative, which provides micro-credit to impoverished women internationally. What inspired you to found Her Global Initiative and what has been its impact so far?
Christine Savino: Being active in Finance and Politics, I saw first hand how difficult it is to be female in both fields. They are extremely male dominated, and I noticed how my I was not responded to the same as that of my male coworkers. Being strong was interpreted as aggressive, and I saw how higher level positions were almost always dominated by men. Even if a male colleague and I performed the same, he would be praised and I wouldn’t. Over time I became highly resilient to sexism in the workplace, but I knew that I wanted to turn my experiences into something more.
So, I made a vow to turned my obstacles into productivity and empathy by helping other women who are also faced with glass ceilings. That is when Her Global Initiative was born!
What are the biggest challenges you face in your work and life and how did you overcome them?
Christine Savino: It’s difficult to name one challenge alone! Although, I think that the hardest challenges that I have overcame were those imposed on me for reasons I could not control. I came from an economically disadvantaged background, and so I was taunted by girls in middle school because my family could only afford me a few pairs of clothes and I was a minority. I overcame this by turning to my books and community so that I could excel academically and philanthropically. As a young adult, the biggest challenges that I face are in professional settings, since I tend to pursue higher level positions in Finance and Politics and thus find myself surrounded by men. This truly drives me to work harder and support other women as well.
It is so important to remember that even if you are in the minority by being female in any situation, to not see it as a block to success, because there is nothing that a man can do that a woman can’t.
In your opinion, what are the biggest barriers to women’s financial independence?
Christine Savino: The biggest barrier is simply a lack of empowerment by women and men. In the third world especially, there is an inherent culture of male superiority which causes a generational cycle of women feeling that they must rely on male counterparts for financial and otherwise stability. Men enact this culture through government and leading relationships, and women accept it. I am trying to break that cycle. Empowering women through micro-credit empowers them to pursue financial independence and lead successful businesses. If both men and women worked collaboratively to empower women instead of adopting the old misogynistic mindset, one half the world would no longer have to be held back. From a logistical standpoint, it is also very difficult for women to secure loans in order to start businesses and be financially independent. That is why it is so important that micro-credit continues to grow and empower women by providing these funds to them. Most commercial banks consider these women to be too risky since their credit is typically null, although I knew that this wasn’t true. To date, Her Global Initiative has helped thousands of women and their families, and we have impacted deeply in need countries such as Ghana and Bangladesh.
You also founded Women’s Legacy at the University of Connecticut. How did you come about founding Women’s Legacy and can you tell us about some programs you have led?
Christine Savino: I co-founded Women’s Legacy with a group of fellow social advocates on campus who are all deeply dedicated to social advocacy and feminist values. Of course, I was excited and humbled to create and develop the student organization that promotes social equality inside and outside of UConn! We have had the pleasure of leading successful events such as open panels discussing feminism between men and women, self defense lessons, and salary negotiation workshops, to name a few!
On a personal level, why does women’s empowerment matter to you?
Christine Savino: Women’s empowerment means making sure that other women are strengthened emotionally and spiritually, and I do this by making sure that they are given the opportunities and encouragement they deserve. I believe that all women have the moral obligation to help other women, and I think that if we all enact this doctrine, half of the world will one day earn equal pay, be praised for its courage, know that it is capable of independence, and overall have the same rights and freedoms of men. Through Her Global Initiative, women are able to not only be empowered by running businesses, but also by finding independence, affording educations, and feeding their children healthier food, to name a few!
Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
Christine Savino: One woman who has impacted me substantially is my mother! She was a strong figure when I was growing up and always encouraged me to be brave enough to speak my mind and enforce what I believed in. She instilled in me the importance of being independent and steady in the face of adversity, which are values that I hold true to today. Of course, I am also inspired and supported by strong females around me daily, and I truly would not be where I am today without every single one of them.I am truly blessed to be surrounded by such strong women.
What are your favorite books, websites, films and resources related to women’s issues and international development?
Christine Savino: I always admired Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, which was written centuries ago but still interestingly parallels to women’s issues today. Micro-credit and its use in international development is utilized in countless textbooks, articles, and scholarly writing pieces, although I enjoyed The Economics of Finance by Armendariz de Aghion and Morduch particularly!