For the first time in a decade, the gender gap in the use of financial services has shrunk from 7 percentage points to 4 percentage points, according to the Global Findex Database 2021. On Wednesday, a webinar titled “Expanding Women’s Financial Inclusion: Global Implications of the Findex Gender Note 2021.”, was hosted by the World Bank Group and Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD).” where sector experts shared this information and discussed it.
Statistics showed that women are more likely than men to have inactive bank accounts globally. Most economically developing countries see a gap of 6 percentage points. In those countries, compearing to 74% of males, 68% of women have bank accounts. The pandemic has allowed both men and women to create bank accounts and receive government subsidies in equal measures. In addition, the epidemic coincided with the highest formal financial inclusion rate in history, with over 25 million women opening their first bank account. Furthermore, there is a broader divide between men and women in smartphone ownership. After reaching 15% in 2021, it has increased to 18% this year. As a result, the number of female smartphone owners is 350 million lower than the number of men smartphone owners.
On the other hand, about 100 crore women still don’t use any formal banking system, and 50 percent are women from only nine countries. Leora Klapper, the founder of Global Findex and the lead economist at the World Bank, made some remarks while presenting the findings of the Findex Gender Note 2021, stating, “Financial inclusion matters for development. Expanding financial inclusion for women will encourage women to save, and help them make and receive digital payments to build their own credit history. It will also smooth their consumption and spending process, and help strengthen their family’s financial resilience.”
Women’s World Banking President and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian said, “We have now reached the highest level of women included in the formal financial system ever. But it is important to remember that we need to put up efforts to provide relevant products that engage women clients and keep them in the system. We must remain attentive to building greater trust, greater awareness and relevance between financial service providers and women they are supposed to serve.”
Several researchers, including Zaki Wahhaj of the University of Kent at Canterbury, Caroline Wainana of the African Population and Health Research Center, Munshi Sulaiman of Save the Children International, Lopita Huq of BIGD, and Xavier Giné of The World Bank, shared some key principles behind their research.
A statement made by Momina Aijazuddin, regional industry head, MCT Financial Sector, International Finance Corporation, “To encourage financial inclusion of women, we need to move away from product-centric design, and adopt an approach that is more customer-centric, one that focuses on the needs of women clients. It is highly important that we work collaboratively on designing more gender-inclusive financial products.”
During a panel discussion, Sheikh Md Monirul Islam, and the chief external and corporate affairs officer, Bkash, discussed how the MFS institution is helping women access digital financial services in Bangladesh.