Last Tuesday, September 15, Women’s World Banking hosting The Clinton Foundation’s No Ceilings and UN Women’s Empower Women for a Twitter chat in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Entitled “#BuildOnBeijing,” the chat was intended to take a step back and celebrate the progress made on women’s financial inclusion since 1995, and also to look ahead and share ideas on where the gaps still exist and how to address them.

The conversation kicked off with the basics. What is women’s financial inclusion?
Empower Women broke it down:  “According to the World Bank, around 2 billion people don’t use formal financial services &and less that 50% of adults in the poorest households are unbanked. Financial inclusion covers savings or deposit accounts, payment and transfer services as well as (micro) insurance. Financial inclusion is a key enabler to reducing poverty and boosting prosperity.”

And why is it so important for women?
Simply because, “Today 58% women have an account, against 65% men. Access to accounts and savings/payment mechanisms empowers women. It allows them to make savings and investments.”

Next we asked: Where have the biggest gains in women’s financial inclusion occurred?

Twenty Years of Women's Financial Inclusion
Twenty Years of Women’s Financial Inclusion

According to No Ceilings, “we know when women can more fully participate in economic, political and civic life, benefits are far reaching. NoCeilings data show that progress is possible. Those living on less than $1.25/day fell from 36% (1990) to 15% (2011). Women entrepreneurs are on rise globally, e.g. in Sub-Saharan Africa & Latin America. However, many women are still marginalized and more must be done to achieve full economic participation.”

Taking a step back, which actions most helped spur this progress?
Empower Women cited understanding of financing & knowledge gaps in serving women-led SMEs and strategic partnerships as critically important .

No Ceilings pointed to a number of reasons: broader, deeper range of partnerships with business and the private sector; increased evidence for the moral and business case for women’s economic opportunity; the proliferation of access to technology, data and social media; and of course, the hard work of governments and nonprofits to promote women’s rights & full participation.

We’ve identified the success areas. But’s it’s now time to take a hard look at the spaces where more work needs to be done., What areas need more attention from gov’t, NGOs and the private sector?
For Empower Women, “Governments need to assure policies that improve transparency in financial markets. Civil society has an important role to play – support responsible financial inclusion.”

For No Ceilings, it boils down to access, legal equality, addressing social norms and workforce participation: “Millions of women run their own businesses, but access to finance, savings, insurance, and credit remain barriers.” Second, “too many countries have laws that limit women’s economic opportunities.” Third, “gaps can persist because of social norms that affect experiences at home, in school, career and community,” and lastly the gender gap in labor force participation has not changed in 20 years (see their data here).”

Great – we know where our efforts should focus on. This then begs the question, what should we be doing to address these areas?
No Ceilings pointed to a number of opportunities: “Mobile banking offers opportunity to increase women’s access to secure, convenient, private, reliable accounts. More focus on equal caregiving, supportive family leave and workplace policies, and equal access to info and technology.” They also cited “continued support for girls’ quality education, including low-income girls: We must also challenge governments, businesses, universities and nonprofits to act.”

Empower Women identified the expansion of “financial infrastructure, such as credit bureaus and collateral registries.” Governments can “increase access and reduce cost” for users. In addition, “private/public – electronic money transfers are key to lowering the cost of remittances for poor economies.”

As the section of UN Women dedicated to the economic empowerment of women, we asked Empower Women, what were their priority areas for advancing women’s economic empowerment & financial inclusion?
To “increase understanding of the barriers affecting women’s access to finance. ; build momentum around actions regarding policies to address these barriers; and inform and collect impact stories on women and financial inclusion.”

And, how does savings promote women’s economic empowerment?
Savings allows women to have more economic opportunities .They won’t have to make decisions based on financial dependency.

And given No Ceilings’ 10,000 view from all the data at their fingertips, we asked them, What role does data have to play in ensuring that empowering women stays on track?
Data not only measures progress, it inspires it. We need more evidence on impact of women’s full participation. It’s not only morally right thing to do, but critical to creating thriving communities, economies & societies

And, who are unlikely allies or partners we can involve in advancing women’s equality? How?
All play a role in advancing full participation of girls & women. Grassroots orgs & civil society are key, but… Tech, policymakers, men & boys, faith, biz & banks are also critical partners we must engage.

So, looking back at where we’ve come to where we are now and looking ahead to where we want to be… What would the world look like if all women had financial access?

The vision from each organization was clear. For No Ceilings, “A world with#NoCeilings would be a world where all girls & women could reach full potential.”

For Empower Women, “Women would be able to send their children to school, they could afford to accept decent work & improve family welfare.”

We couldn’t agree more! Because for Women’s World Banking, if we #BankOnHer, economies would be stronger and women would be realizing their full potential.

It is our hope that the imperative to #BuildOnBeijing lives on far beyond the 20th anniversary of the Declaration.   There are a tremendous number of great ideas and initiatives (including campaigns such as Women’s World Banking’s #BankOnHer, No Ceilings’ #NotThere and Empower Women’s #IAmWoman) out there… ensuring that the right partnerships, tools, goals and commitments are in place to truly build on Beijing and achieve full financial inclusion for women.