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Battling Gender Disparities in the Financial Sector

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Throughout history, women have faced limited financial inclusion due to barriers imposed by social norms. The traditional view of them as “housemakers” has always limited their ability to gain financial access. What we mean by limited financial access isn’t just the inability to open a bank account, but also the lack of financial independence and freedom. This notion still remains valid in many cultures and must be battled effectively.

Disparity Amongst Genders 

Let’s talk facts and numbers:

Disparities in Financial Inclusion

The overall gap in financial access is narrowing. From 2011 to 2017, the total unbanked population went down from 49% to 31%. However, the gender gap in financial access is not narrowing:

  • When broken down by gender, 72% of men have access to a financial account, while only 65% of women have that access.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the problem. Women felt the economic impact of the pandemic more than men did. Due to restrictive measures, 25% of self-employed women have lost their jobs. This is compared to 21% of men in Europe and Central Asia. Researchers expect this gap to widen due to the continuous increase in unemployment.
  • Closing this gender gap has the ability to trigger economic growth, address inequality, and stimulate business evolution and social inclusion.

Disparities in Fintech:

  • Areas with larger gender disparities in financial inclusion have much fewer fintechs led by women. 
  • Globally, women-founded fintechs have only raised 1% of total fintech investment in the past ten years.
  • Women entrepreneurs tend to face several hurdles, the biggest of them being limited access to networks and capital. This makes it discouraging for women to gain the confidence to attempt and break-through male-dominated sectors, namely finance and technology.
  • Women entrepreneurs also face trouble getting investors due to outdated assumptions that their responsibilities as wives or mothers will distract them from running a successful business.
  • The same issue applies to loans too. Loan rejections rates for women-owned SMEs in India were almost double than those owned by men, yet repayment rates for women are higher.
  • A Mckinsey report shows that men hold 73% of executive positions in financial services.
Inspiring quote on women in leadership from Susanna Morgans interview for FT Partners <br>Susanna is Remitlys CFO and brings over 20 years of experience to Remitlys leadership team<br>

From School to Work Life (beating the bias)

Fintech has already done a significant job empowering women despite the difficulties and disparities that remain. However, to achieve higher levels of equality and to further reduce these disparities, several actions can be taken on multiple fronts:

How the innovation ecosystem can support female entrepreneurs:

1- Starting from the classroom – Prioritizing inclusion in education

The gender gap is also present in education (courses and programs focused on economics, computer science, and finance have always been male-focused). This makes it very difficult for women to pursue jobs in large industries at seniority levels. This is why developing equal opportunities across educational and career life processes is vital.

Financial education to promote financial literacy is also vital to teach young adults the basics of finance, and inspire interest and passion for the field from a young age.

2- Develop Female Talent

This could take place through the provision of tailored mentorship and leadership training for enterprises led by women.

3- Build Women’s Demand for Digital

Allow women to trust and demand digital services by encouraging and investing in their financial literacy and education. This also works by collecting data to better understand women’s digital financial needs and consumer behavior.

4- Partner with Policymakers

Working with policymakers to help the innovation community by facilitating dialogue between stakeholders and testing new products and solutions for women.

5- Invest in Gender-Lens Investing

Gender-lens investing is an investment approach that takes into account gender differences and factors to promote equality and make better decisions. This could happen by creating a pipeline of investment-ready women-led businesses that meet the growing interest in gender-lens investing. 

6- Beating bias blind spots 

The hiring process is largely affected by biases and discrimination that exclude women from fintech industries. A more inclusive proactive approach to recruitment is necessary. It requires recognizing these shortcomings, fighting inherent bias, and implementing new strategies. 


“Be the change you want to see”

Mahatma Gandhi

The only way to elicit long-lasting change is by modeling the workplace and the change we want to see. By finding new strategies and encouraging new and healthy beliefs and habits in the workplace, we begin the process of positive and inclusive change. As a result, upcoming generations will follow the lead. We at Purpl strive to take on the lead and inspire this change.

Written by: Maria Sawaya

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