International Women’s Day Event to Feature Women Leaders in Fintech and Financial Inclusion

FINCA Impact Finance’s 2019 International Women’s Day panel will discuss the future of fintech and financial inclusion, focusing on closing the gender gap. Speakers include Andrée Simon, Rosita Najmi, Dr. Sonja Kelly, Bhavana Srivastava and Elissa McCarter Laborde.  

Date: Tuesday, March 5th, 5:30 – 8:30pm

Venue: FINCA Impact Finance HQ, 1201 15th Street, NW Washington, DC 20005, NAHB Auditorium First Floor

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The tide of financial inclusion is rising. According to the most recent World Bank Findex report, the global unbanked population fell to 1.7 billion in 2017, down from 2.1 billion in 2013. In developing countries, account ownership increased to 63 percent from 42 percent over the same period.

Many expected this rising tide, largely driven by the explosion of fintech, to lift all boats and bring us closer to gender balance in access to financial services.

That hasn’t happened. While the future of fintech and financial inclusion is still an exciting prospect, there is growing skeptical about its ability to empower women. The gender gap remains a problem. Worldwide, financially-included men outnumber their women counterparts by roughly 200 million.

In developing countries, men are eight percent more likely to have a bank account than are women—a gap that has barely changed since 2011. In some regions, the gender gap in financial inclusion has actually widened since 2011.

By now, it’s clear that access doesn’t equal impact, let alone empowerment.

FINCA Impact Finance’s International Women’s Day Panel Event

The connection between fintech, financial inclusion and gender equality will be front and center at FINCA Impact Finance’s 2019 International Women’s Day event in Washington, DC on March 5. The panel will feature women leaders in finance and tech sharing insights on how fintech can be put to use empowering women and helping close the gender gap.

Moderated by FINCA Impact Finance President & CEO Andrée Simon, the panel will feature Rosita Najmi from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Sonja Kelly from the US State Department, Bhavana Srivastava from MicroSave Consulting (MSC) and Elissa McCarter Laborde from the Vitas Group.

The discussion will cover financial inclusion and gender issues broadly, but the focus will be on fintech—a dynamic part of the financial services sector, fintech holds tremendous promise but so far has not helped close the gender gap.

The Future of Fintech and Financial Inclusion Holds Promise—But We Need to Be Intentional

Innovations such as mobile and agent banking and digital field automation promise to reach more women through lower transaction costs. However, women are still being denied opportunities to benefit from the overall expansion in financial inclusion.

Mobile money, an important catalyst for financial inclusion, is case in point. Worldwide, about 184 million fewer women own phones compared to their male counterparts—the gap is about 10% in low- and middle-income countries. Among those women in developing countries who do own a mobile phone, they are still 18% less likely than men to use mobile internet—this limits the transformational impact that mobile financial services can have.

And while mobile money is helping close the gender gap in some countries, in some places it’s having the opposite effect. Research shows that women are most likely to hold mobile money accounts in countries where women already play active roles managing household finances.

Where that isn’t the case, and where women face diminished access to mobile devices and digital literacy training, these innovations are less empowering.

If the recent experience of financial inclusion can be boiled down to a single lesson, it’s the need to be intentional. Women need more than access to financial products and services—they need the right financial products and services, and they need the tools to utilize them fully.

That means gender-sensitive loans, savings and payment products provided in ways women understand, feel comfortable with and find socially acceptable. That also means providing supplementary services such as financial and digital literacy training. It also means ensuring that fintech products and channels have clear use cases for women.

The future of fintech and financial inclusion still holds a lot of promise, but in order to ensure that future allows women to participate to their full potential, we need to #BalanceforBetter.

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