The Data Needed to Drive Women’s Financial Inclusion

Thursday 17th November 2022

Since 2020, the Financial Alliance for Women has been the technical lead for Data2X’s Women’s Financial Inclusion Data (WFID) Partnership, a coalition striving to increase the use of gender data to drive women’s financial inclusion. We have been working in six countries—Bangladesh, Honduras, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey—to increase the availability and use of supply-side sex-disaggregated financial data in their markets.

This work led us to create the “Community of Gender Data Champions,” a group of national-level stakeholders from each of the six pilot countries, to share and learn from each other’s experiences. On Nov. 4, the community of regulators, banking associations, financial inclusion think tanks, and others, convened in London to discuss their latest efforts and long-term visions for using gender data to support women’s economic growth.

Three key learnings from the stakeholders were:

1. Policymakers need supply-side data (data from financial services providers) to understand the true state of women’s financial inclusion. This means different things for different countries. In Bangladesh, the central bank will use supply-side data to answer questions the demand-side data has left them with. “One survey says women’s financial inclusion is 52 percent; another says 72 percent. Which is correct?” said Mr. Md. Saiful Khan, Director of National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) at Bangladesh Bank. 

The Central Bank of Nigeria wants to use the data to answer questions like, “How are women accessing finance, and what are the issues around access points? Which products and services are suited to them?” This will help them understand women’s financial access beyond account ownership and identify policies that incentivize banks to drill down to “last-mile” clients.

2. Data visualization is a powerful tool to show the value of gender data. WFID has been working with the central banks in Nigeria and Bangladesh to aggregate gender data into financial inclusion dashboards for the public. These dashboards will use existing rich supply-side data, so national-level stakeholders and market players can easily quantify gaps and build awareness about the business case for serving women.

As David Taylor, a consultant with Consumer CentriX, pointed out: You don’t need a complete dataset to build a dashboard. Perfect is the enemy of good when it comes to showing data. “Unless you have a product to show the value of having the data, it is difficult to get the data,” he said. “Build something quick. Build something simple. Show the value.”

3. Policymakers are eager to collaborate with providers to align national gender data efforts with market needs. Some countries are already taking this approach. As Amna Awan from Karandaaz noted, the State Bank of Pakistan consulted with a large group of private sector stakeholders to develop its Banking on Equality Policy. The governor met with bank CEOs when it launched to help ensure their buy-in. That policy has helped to close the country’s gender gap at an unprecedented pace.

Policymakers across countries are not interested in top-down approaches that force FSPs to collect and use gender data. They want input from the sector about what data is useful to them. They also need examples to show the business case for serving women. Conversely, financial services providers are looking for regulators to lead the charge. “We can’t do anything unless the central bank is willing to support us,” said Lukania Geraldine of FSD Kenya. Both sides acknowledge that national-level initiatives—whether regulator or market-led—would have practical benefits for closing data gaps. For example, creating a national definition and recommending processes for screening women-owned/led enterprises would help banks struggling to identify WSMEs.

The bottom line is that national-level actors are increasingly committed to using supply-side gender data to drive women’s economic growth, and they need input from the financial services sector to implement market-led solutions. Alliance members can play a lead role in accelerating these efforts.

Many members have also built out their gender data capabilities in the past few years. The 2021 Female Economy Analytics survey showed that 47 percent of Alliance members now sex-disaggregate product and portfolio data versus just 22 percent that did when they joined the network. More importantly, Alliance members used that data to develop strong customer value propositions for women. At the end of the day, the information is only helpful if we put it to good use—and demonstrating how to do that will lift the tide.