> Posted by Center Staff

Today, around the world individuals, governments, and organizations are celebrating women and calling for increased action towards gender parity, including in the financial services arena. And for good reason. Research indicates that when women control finances, they’re more likely to be spent on household necessities, like food, water, and children’s education and healthcare. In recognition of International Women’s Day, we compiled some of our favorite recent industry efforts to further financial inclusion for women. But first, here’s a quick run-down of where inclusion for women stands.

The Global Findex tells us that there is a gender gap in access to accounts at seven percentage points globally (65 percent vs. 58 percent), and across developing countries it’s nine percentage points. In some regions, this gap is significantly more severe – 18 percent in South Asia, for example. Gender gaps exist in other areas, too. GSMA estimates that in developing countries there are 200 million fewer women than men who own a mobile phone. And as one example of the gap in financial capability, in the World Bank Group’s 2014 Financial Capability Survey in Morocco women scored significantly lower than men.

Prioritizing financial inclusion for women is not only the right thing to do, it benefits everyone. In addition to benefitting women and women’s households, financial inclusion of women augments economies writ large. About half of women worldwide are missing from the workforce. In Egypt, for example, the IMF estimates that achieving equal labor participation among men and women would increase GDP by 34 percent. The IFC estimates that women-owned businesses have an unmet financing need of $320 billion worldwide.

Many organizations are working to close the gap:

GSMA and its mobile network operator (MNO) members have just launched the Connected Women Commitment Initiative. Through the initiative, MNOs will strive to connect millions of women in lower and middle-income countries by 2020. Commitments towards this goal will center on: increasing the number of female agents; improving the data top-up process to be safer and more appealing to women; and improving digital literacy among women through educational programs and interactive content. Here you can find recent GSMA reports on women and mobile money in Myanmar and Kenya. And here’s a case study on a GSMA-funded project with Accion and Swadhaar where a mobile money solution was piloted in India.

The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women conducted an in-depth study on the role of women in the mobile phone industry, highlighting the social and economic advantages of including more women entrepreneurs into the mobile value chain. The study drew participation from mobile network operators, distributors, vendors, and other industry stakeholders across 11 markets.

Tata Communications recently teamed up with MasterCard and a handful of partners (Brightstar Corp, Kiva, Tone, Trickle Up, and the Hidary Foundation) to launch a series of mobile pilots. In India, Indonesia, Guatemala, and Nigeria, the pilots center on empowering women via mobile platforms that offer a range of financial, health, and education applications and services. Upon successful completion of the pilots, the project team aims to scale to ultimately reach 100 million women by 2020.

A few days ago Women’s World Banking (WWB) and the Alliance for Financial Inclusion released Policy Frameworks to Support Women’s Financial Inclusion, a new report that examines enabling policy and regulatory frameworks. WWB also recently shared Women’s Workforce Participation and Advancement in Southeast Asia, a study looking at opportunities for employment and advancement for women at select multinational and local banks in five countries in Southeast Asia. On this blog, you may have seen us spotlight WWB’s e-book that shares the stories of 31 women financial inclusion leaders from around the world: Celebrating Women Leaders: Profiles of Financial Inclusion Pioneers.

A team comprised of the World Bank Group, the Better Than Cash Alliance, the Gates Foundation, and Women’s World Banking released a report on how digital financial solutions can advance women’s economic participation. Leora Klapper of the World Bank suggests that governments can: pay workers and distribute social benefits digitally rather than in cash; set-up digital payments systems to receive routine expenses like school fees and utilities bills; promote formal savings; overhaul regulations to encourage wider use of mobile payments; and reform rules that prevent women from getting bank accounts.

The Global Banking Alliance for Women (GBA), in collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Data2X, released a report on the case for gender-disaggregated data to inform better policies and private sector action and discusses the challenges to its collection and use.

Last week Kiva partnered with the United States Department of State and the Inter-American Development Bank in launching the Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund. The fund, harnessing Kiva’s crowdfunding approach, aims to enable 1 million women entrepreneurs to access loans over the next five years by matching dollar-for-dollar what citizen lenders give women entrepreneurs through the Kiva.org website. Kiva had originally set a crowdfunding goal of $1 million in loans for women for International Women’s Day, but this goal has already been met, so they’ve extended a stretch goal of $2 million. To lend, and for other ways to get involved with Kiva on this day, click here.

For more ways to get involved, head to the International Women’s Day website, where among other options you can take a #PledgeforParity.

To follow International Women’s Day discussions on Twitter, use #IWD2016 and #InternationalWomensDay.

Image credit: World Bank

Have you read?

Quality Data at the Heart of Strengthening Financial Inclusion of Women

Why the Gender Dummy Doesn’t Speak: Explaining the Gender Gap in Financial Inclusion

Adding Gender to the Microfinance Bottom Line