Wells Fargo (WFC) committed Friday to providing $17 billion in loans to women-owned businesses by 2020.

That seven-year pledge came on top of previous commitments by Wells to lend to female business owners. Over the last 18 years, the San Francisco bank has provided more than $38 billion in loans to women-owned firms, it says.

"In the world today, there's so many opportunities for women to get into more small business," Lisa Stevens, the bank's lead executive for small business and West Coast regional banking president, says in an interview. "Women now make up almost a third of all small businesses in the United States."

"If we can inspire women that are thinking about starting a small business," Stevens adds, "then we will have been successful."

The bank famous for its stagecoach logo made its first commitment to women-owned business back in 1995, when it pledged to lend $1 billion over three years. That commitment has since been updated. In 2003, Wells Fargo promised to provide $20 billion by 2013, a goal that the bank says it surpassed.

Wells Fargo's $17 billion commitment over the next seven years works out to around $2.4 billion annually in loans to women-owned businesses. That's compared with its $2.1 billion average over the last 18 years.

Wells Fargo is scheduled to formally announce its new commitment Friday in Los Angeles at the Hispanas Organized for Political Equality 22nd annual Latina History Day conference.

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