Caren Robb on Fintech and Financial Inclusion for Women

Despite increased financial access overall, the gender gap hasn’t changed much since 2014. According to the 2017 Findex Report the average man is still nine percent more likely to have a bank account than the average woman. That amounts to a gap of roughly 200 million people. And while fintech has potential to empower women, fintech and financial inclusion for women don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand.

That topic was the focus of a recent op-ed by FINCA Impact Finance (FIF) Vice President & COO Caren Robb. Writing in International Banker, Robb discusses ways that financial institutions can promote inclusive finance and empower women.

Robb starts with fintech, a sector of financial services with the power to help us reach the unbanked. But while the capability is there, fintech has so far been unable to close the gender gap:

Fintech innovations such as mobile and agent banking can be part of the solution, but they must be properly designed and targeted toward empowering women. Research shows that, thus far, fintech has been most effective at narrowing the gender gap in markets where women are already financially included to some degree. Where that isn’t the case, and where women face diminished access to technology and digital literacy training, these solutions are less empowering.

So, what’s the solution? Robb argues that financial service providers need to think beyond access:

My organization, FINCA Impact Finance (FIF), operates on the realization that access alone isn’t enough. More intentional action is needed to ensure women are equipped to benefit from the worldwide expansion of financial inclusion. Gender-sensitive financial products, services, and delivery methods can help close the gender gap by adapting to the specific needs of women.

Later in the piece, Robb discusses specific FIF initiatives aimed at empowering women, including the company’s Diversity & Inclusion Strategy:

The past two years have brought some of our boldest women-centric initiatives yet. We launched a Diversity & Inclusion strategy to ensure greater balance—both within the organization and in how we serve our clients. The strategy emphasizes gender-equitable hiring and promotion practices intended to identify and support women leaders. It’s informed by a body of research demonstrating that firms with more women represented in management tend to be more successful and deliver a better product to clients. Gender balance at the top tends to flow downward.

The strategy also requires our subsidiaries to develop women-centric products and services that are empowering women entrepreneurs in the communities and countries we serve. The good news is, several of our gender-sensitive banking initiatives are already starting to bear fruit.

Read the full article here:

Financial Institutions Need to Reach Women on Their Terms