Gender on the Agenda: Approaching diversity and inclusion with an eye towards the future

At FINCA Impact Finance (FIF), women’s empowerment and inclusion has always underpinned how we think about social performance and influenced the way we do business. FIF believes that increasing gender diversity at all levels of the company will increase business and financial performance, as well as improve our social performance results, while reducing our reputational risk. It will also position us as an industry leader of change and an employer of choice for women.

FIF launched a diversity and inclusion (DI) strategy in 2018, outlining 5 key pillars of focus for the company. These pillars emphasize an inclusive workplace, equal representation, equal opportunity, equal pay and increased outreach to women through specially-designed products and services. The strategy functions as a foundation for FIF’s broader business model, which places a premium on investing in people and their potential.


Building an Inclusive Culture

FIF understands that being a responsible financial services provider means much more than simply providing people access to financial tools. Being responsible means promoting inclusion among its staff, which is a pre-requisite for a diverse workforce and requires the full integration of each member of the FIF team – regardless of their gender. Building an inclusive culture is about creating a work environment that allows for all individuals, regardless of gender, to feel comfortable and confident at work.

In the pipeline of qualified candidates, we are being intentional about including women.

According to FIF President and CEO Andrée Simone, the company has held a forum on diversity and inclusion in the past but has never really talked about what diversity and inclusion truly means.

“Even though we naturally have a culture centered around inclusiveness, we need to protect and preserve it to help it grow even more,” says FIF’s CEO.

To do this, FIF is encouraging its employees across the FIF network to talk more openly about diversity and inclusion – what it means and why it is so important going forward. FIF measures its internal culture based on an annual climate survey, which measures how staff feel about the company. Management uses the results of the survey to determine the best way to improve how staff feel at work.

Gender Representation

FIF prides itself on hiring the most qualified candidates, irrespective of gender. However, making sure that women enjoy equal representation and equal opportunities for advancement in the FIF workforce is a top priority.

The Equal Representation pillar is about ensuring there is equal representation of women in the workplace in all 20 FIF subsidiaries and Headquarters and at all levels of the organization – from junior to senior management  positions, including board representation.

“In the pipeline of qualified candidates, we are being intentional about including women. In fact, within companies, we know that when there is better gender representation on boards or within management, the financial performance is also better,” notes Simon.

FIF is actively looking at its recruiting and promotion practices, as well as looking at its job descriptions. To achieve equality in employment across the network, it sometimes requires breaking down the cultural barriers that exclude women from certain jobs.

“We want to change the mentality of ‘this job is only for men and this job is only for women,’” says Florence Kinzonzi, Human Resources Director at FINCA Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

We have to ask ourselves – what can we do to bring more women into the financial sector to help release their trapped value?

Equal Opportunities for Men and Women

An organization’s commitment to recruiting, hiring, retaining, and developing the most talented and qualified members of its staff is crucial to the success of any company. The focus of this pillar is about investing in FIF female staff’s hiring, development and career growth and retention.

FIF encourages its employees to coach, mentor and train their employees so that they can grow in their careers. “We want our employees to feel like they have a future with the company and know that there are opportunities for growth,” notes Simon.

Sibia Ngayihembako, Head of Banking Services at FINCA DRC, emphasizes the importance of getting staff involved when pursuing the company’s goals: “As a manager, when you are pushing an agenda, you have to make sure your team is included. You must train the generation that is coming after you so the things you have accomplished will last long after you have moved on.”

At FIF, grooming employees for the future is a priority and represents a win-win approach to building a successful, sustainable business.

“If you want your company to go far, you need to build your successor, because there is no success without a successor,” explains Florence Kinzonzi, Staff Director at FINCA DRC.

Equal Pay for Equal work

Globally, women continue to face substantial obstacles to receiving equal pay. According to the latest data from the World Economic Forum, closing the gender pay gap in places like Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and the Middle East has proven to be particularly problematic.

Gender Pay Gap Chart
Source: World Economic Forum

Globally, women earn on average only about 60% to 75% of what their male colleagues earn. This pay gap is so stark, that if the pay gap between men and women were to close, the world’s GDP could grow by as much as $12 trillion by 2025!

FIF takes this issue seriously by promoting an equal performance for equal pay policy. All subsidiaries and HQ is examining its salary structure to guarantee that there are no salary or bonus biases and that women are paid equal to their male colleagues.

“We base our salaries and salary increases on performance,” says Kinzonzi. “It is a merit-based system with established, verifiable criteria. Gender does not play a role in how much someone gets paid,” she notes.

Women-Designed Products: One Shoe doesn’t Fit All

Financial exclusion affects 1.7 billion people worldwide, the majority of whom are women. According to FIF CEO Andrée Simon, addressing this gender imbalance requires looking inward for a solution.

“We have to ask ourselves – what can we do to bring more women into the financial sector to help release their trapped value? And what products and services can we design to best cater to their needs?”

According to Mirela Pekmezi, Deputy General Director for FINCA DRC, fintech innovations are one way to reach and empower financially excluded women in developing countries.

“If you visit the markets, you will see that there are a lot of women selling who are often unable to make it to a branch. Because we are digitalizing our services in many of our network branches, this enables these women to access our products remotely without leaving their homes or businesses,” Pekmezi notes.

Building a Foundation for Success

Warmth, trust and responsible banking are the foundation of FIF’s brand – internally and externally.  By embracing these values and principles – and also ensuring that all staff and clients feel included at FINCA Impact Finance, the company will continue to build on is past successes.