Data Norms are Shifting Fast – Will Gender Data Shift Too?

Thursday 30th July 2020

If anyone still doubted the power of data to shift perspectives and policy outcomes, the COVID-19 crisis might change their minds. In recent months, measuring economic activity in real-time has become a top priority across the private and public sectors. Riksbank, the central bank of Sweden, recently opened up a web application to facilitate rapid data sharing from academics and private companies; while the Federal Reserve Board and Banca d’Italia announced a joint conference on nontraditional data and statistical learning with a call for research from central banks, universities and the private sector.

The rapid shift towards a more open and participatory data landscape lends new urgency to our goal of normalizing gender data in the financial services sector. Right now, we have the opportunity to embed sex-disaggregated data into the fabric of global financial sector analysis. This will be a key topic at our Annual Summit this October, Shifting the Paradigm: The Female Economy 2020 and Beyond.

Some financial services providers already use sex-disaggregated to build savvy customer strategies.  Tymebank is a great example. Tyme, South Africa’s first fully-digital bank, realized that many mass market clients, particularly women, do not have the hours in a day to spend at a branch. And so, it decided to meet female customers where they are by opening in-store kiosks at supermarkets. After finding that 85 percent of new accounts were opened at in-person kiosks—remarkable for a fully digital bank—Tyme leaned into the strategy. The result was rapid customer acquisition: the neobank has attracted almost 2 million customers since its launch in February 2019, nearly 60 percent of whom are women.

But Tyme is not the norm. Few FSPs systematically collect sex-disaggregated data; even fewer use it to drive business decisions. And so the Alliance is bringing together stakeholders from across sectors to catalyze change. In 2019, we partnered to Data2X to hold a series of roundtable discussions that convened professionals from across the financial services sector, academia and international development. These roundtables yielded unparalleled insight on the use of data to drive financial inclusion, which are summarized in our recently published white paper, A Data-Driven Path to Women’s Financial Inclusion: Insights from Financial Providers.

The Alliance is also filling the gap in supply-side gender data through our annual Female Economy Analytics Survey. Reporting from members increased by more than 40 percent this year, a clear illustration of their commitment to leading on the way on this topic. We look forward to sharing the full results with you at the Annual Summit—but here is a sneak preview: in 2019, Alliance members from 30 countries served approximately 40 million women customers with more than US$127 billion in deposits and US$130 billion in credit.

In summary: Data is more important and open now than ever before; and gender data is key for FSPs looking to stay ahead of customer demand. Yet the collection and analysis of gender data is not yet the norm for established FSPs or startup fintechs. With your help, we hope to change that.