Global Adoption of the Women’s Market

Engaging Financial Services Providers, Worldwide

The female economy is increasingly recognized as a major opportunity by the private sector. GBA banks are leading the charge from the commercial bank side, and the IDB, IFC and EBRD are leading it from the development finance community, while the microfinance sector has ably tackled the Women’s Market at the base of the pyramid for many years. Despite that, demand-side datasets such as Findex show persistent gender gaps in access to and use of financial services, while supply-side research with banks shows lack of awareness of the Women’s Market opportunity by large swaths of senior managers within financial services companies.

This panel brought together different ecosystem actors to explore what needs to be done to truly globalize adoption of the Women’s Market by the financial services sector.

Key Points

  • In the 2014 survey administered to members of the Latin American Banking Federation, FELABAN, just 15% of bank representatives believed that women-led SMEs are underserved. While this compares to only 7% in 2013, it still demonstrates the very low awareness among bankers of the issues facing women business owners in the region.

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  • Many senior bankers are resistant to this topic initially as they have the perception that women are merely depositors in banks with little other need.
  • Inside Itaú, which has a successful pilot, the task is now bringing the case to the Business Units. The internal goal is to reach 10% of women customers with the Women’s Market program. Once successful in Brazil, Itaú will bring it to other countries.
  • In Chile — the only country producing sex-disaggregated supply-side data for over a decade — the regulator is now looking into how this data can be made more useful in promoting full financial inclusion. The President of Chile is also using this data to promote the involvement of more financial institutions in the Women’s Market. That is the power of data.
  • The regulator creates the enabling environment and gently nudges, but it is important to leave space for innovation and market forces.
  • To build awareness among banks in Zambia, the Central Bank asked banks to work through the FAMOS check tool, which aims to enable business support agencies, financial institutions and government departments to have a fresh look — and a systematic assessment — of the extent to which they target and serve women entrepreneurs, their needs and their potentialities. For the Zambian banks this was a real eye-opener.
  • Panelists agreed that that raising gender awareness and the business case is necessary across stakeholder institutions — banks, central banks and Development Finance Institutions.

  • Internal Diversity & Inclusion is an important driver.
  • The IDB found that introducing targets for percent of women in leadership positions was important to achieving inclusion. In 4 years they went from 28% to 38% of leadership positions held by women. They offer mentoring and training at key points where they see women need to be bolstered so there are more candidates for senior positions.
  • Quotas have been important in Zambia also. The Minister of Finance must appoint 6 independent directors, and 2 of them have to be women.
  • In Chile, there are 127 board positions in the banking system, but only 7 are women — and 2 of these are in BancoEstado, the state-owned bank. This is 5.5% representation of women compared to the overall representation in the general population of 50%. While meritocracy is great, it is also important to think about smart ways of getting women into leadership positions and countering men’s unconscious bias with business arguments. Even if they don’t believe in the need for equity, they will believe in the argument of money.
  • It is important for central banks to get sex-disaggregated data on the leadership of banks under their purview. This disclosure prompts action. Collaboration across stakeholders on the data is also important.
  • It’s time now to start the conversation and identify those who could benefit from being a part of it.

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Executive Vice President, Inter-American Development Bank Group

Director of Institutional and Wholesale Marketing, Itaú Unibanco

Product Head, Banking on Women, Financial Institutions Group, International Finance Corporation, World Bank Group

Deputy Governor, Bank of Zambia

Superintendent, Superintendency of Banks and Financial Institutions of Chile


“[Women’s economic empowerment] is very much on the agenda around the world. But is it on the agenda of the right people to make the changes that need to occur?”
— Julie T. Katzman

“Many senior executives see the gender question as a non-issue. … Our work is to show them the data on why diversity in leadership is important.”
— Andréa Pinotti Cordeiro

“Women are sticky: They buy products from banks at a ratio of 2:1. Women are also strong and stable depositors.”
— Jessica Schnabel

“We have one bank in Zambia, [GBA member] Access Bank, which has introduced women’s products. [Others have tried, but] the products are not very meaningful. For more meaningful interventions, the role of the central bank is important.”
— Tukiya Kankasa-Mabula

“Privilege is invisible for those that have it. … I think men don’t realize that they have privilege. But we need to rethink that and find smart ways to close the gender gap.”
— Eric Parrado