UN Women Event Highlights Strategies for Financing Gender Equality

Wednesday 30th March 2016

Photo: UN Women/J Carrier
Photo: UN Women/J Carrier

On March 15, Global Banking Alliance for Women Chief Executive Inez Murray served on a panel at a high-level side event of the 60th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW60). The event, “Financing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: How to Make a Difference After the Commitments Taken in Addis Ababa,” sought to build on the successes achieved at the United Nations Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa — where two groundbreaking documents were produced reaffirming that empowering women is essential to achieving sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth and sustainable development: the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA), and the Action Plan on Transformative Financing for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.

The CSW60 side event provided a space to discuss innovative approaches to financing women’s empowerment and gender equality; to mobilize political commitment to ensure that gender equality financing as a cross-cutting issue is part of the follow-up and review to the AAAA; and to expand the partnership and build greater support for the Action Plan, which identifies priorities and policy actions required to enforce the gender equality commitments of the AAAA.

During the panel, Murray highlighted the importance of points 3 and 5 of the Action Plan, which discuss the need to promote and enact legislative and administrative reforms to ensure women’s equal rights to credit and other financial services; develop strategies to support women entrepreneurs; and close data gaps by investing in national statistical capacity to collect, analyze and use sex-disaggregated data.

Murray noted that women as a whole have lower financial literacy than men, as well as disproportionately less access to financial services, information, education and networks. Because of this, GBA banks offer women a holistic proposition encompassing all of these areas. With the right Women’s Market offering, members of the GBA have found the market to be highly profitable, with women saving more relative to their total income, paying back loans at a higher rate, buying more products and being more loyal to their banks than men.

“We have, in short, the ‘business case’ for banks to serve women,” Murray said.

Having proved the business case, the next step is scaling this model, she continued. The best way to do this is to spread the word to banks worldwide, sharing Case Studies and best practices, and supporting one another with immersive peer learning events and mentoring – all of which are a part of the GBA mission. International Financial Institutions, donors, technical assistance providers and other stakeholders can assist with this, creating awareness about the market and educating banks on what is working.

“Most bank leaders are not aware that there is a Women’s Market — that women have distinct needs and behaviors when it comes to financial services,” Murray said. “They do not know how big the Women’s Market is, and they have no idea that it is profitable. This is because of a lack of data.”

Indeed, sex-disaggregated data on women’s financial inclusion and behaviors is essential to full understanding of the business case for serving women. It allows banks to identify the business case for entering the Women’s Market, it helps banks to prove internally that the Women’s Market is profitable, and it allows policymakers to understand the gender gaps in financial inclusion in their countries and create evidence-based regulations to close them.

For governments, the collection of sex-disaggregated data begins a virtuous cycle, where its availability informs stronger, evidence-based policymaking and helps regulators evaluate the effectiveness of policies intended to promote financial inclusion. This enables successful regulation, reinforcing the utility of sex-disaggregated financial data and thus willingness to make it available.

Data Cycle

Murray noted that the GBA model offers not only an untapped avenue of growth for financial institutions, but also a commercial solution to the problem of women’s exclusion from the financial system — which impacts financial stability to financial system integrity and the ability of regulators to protect consumers.

“We talk not of gender equality but of the power of the female economy,” she said. “This is a market that cannot be ignored — whether you are a bank that needs to grow or a regulator who needs to ensure financial sector stability.”

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Wu Hongbo and South African Minister in the Presidency Responsible for Women Susan Shabangu also served on the panel, which was moderated by Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. The event was co-hosted by UN Women; the Financing for Development Office; and the governments of Australia, Mexico, The Philippines, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia and the United Kingdom.