Expanding Women’s Financial Inclusion: Global Implications of the Findex Gender Note 2021

The Global Findex Database 2021 shows that the gap in access to financial services between men and women dropped to 4 percentage points for the first time in the past decade. In developing economies, the gap is somewhat larger at 6 percentage points. 74 percent of men now have an account, compared to 68 percent of women in developing economies.

BIGD, in partnership with The World Bank’s Development Research Group and the World Bank Group’s yearlong Gender Equality and Development +10: Accelerate Equality initiative organized a webinar titled ”Expanding Women’s Financial Inclusion: Global Implications of the Findex Gender Note 2021″ on Wednesday, December 14, 2022.

World Bank Lead Economist and Global Findex founder Leora Klapper presented the global findings of the Findex Gender Note 2021 in the webinar. The webinar was also joined by leading academics and implementers. The event was moderated by Dr Imran Matin, Executive Director of BIGD.

In her opening speech, Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO, Women’s World Banking drawing data from the Findex Gender Note 2021 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.”

Leora Klapper, Lead Economist in the Development Research Group at the World Bank and Founder of the Global Findex database gave an overview of the Findex Gender Note 2021 and said, “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. At the same time, it will smooth their consumption and spending process, and help strengthen their family’s financial resilience.”

The webinar also featured BIGD WEE-DiFine studies, which explore the intersection of digital financial services and women’s economic empowerment in the global south. Zaki Wahhaj from the University of Kent, Canterbury, Caroline Wainana from the African Population and Health Research Center, Munshi Sulaiman from Save the Children International, Lopita Huq from BIGD, and Xavier Giné from The World Bank Bank described the motivating principles behind their studies.

The presentations were followed by a panel discussion featuring leading international and Bangladesh-based financial practitioners. Momina Aijazuddin, Regional Industry Head, MCT Financial Sector, International Finance Corporation, also joined the panel discussion. She said, “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.”

Sheikh Md Monirul Islam, Chief External & Corporate Affairs Officer, Bkash also took part in the discussion and shared how the MFS institution is contributing to expand women’s inclusion in the digital financial space of Bangladesh.

Dr Imran Matin, Executive Director, BIGD said, “It is really hopeful to see some positive trends, but we now have to work hard to ensure that it results in sustainable and meaningful financial inclusion, so that it can generate all types of impact and benefits that are generally expected for women.”