Can Data Predict the Future of Women’s Economic Empowerment?

January 7, 2021

By Sonja Kelly, Director of Research and Advocacy, and Mehrdad Mirpourian, Senior Data Analyst

Women’s World Banking is starting on a journey to find out if data can predict the future of women’s economic empowerment—and we’d like you to follow along.

The task is daunting, even for a team of data scientists who love crunching the numbers. Many institutions—the World Bank, the EIU, Brookings Institution, the IMF, and Kantar, to name a few—have set out to track country-level progress toward access to and usage of financial tools. We know from these efforts, however, that the gap between women’s and men’s financial inclusion varies by country, according to the World Bank Global Findex (2018). For example, in Pakistan, for every one woman with an account there are five men. In Indonesia, men and women have very similar rates of account ownership. We also know that financial inclusion does not automatically translate to women’s economic empowerment. The picture is more complicated with social norms, legal and regulatory frameworks, technology access, on-ramps to financial inclusion, and other factors straining or improving the relationship between financial inclusion and economic empowerment among women.

Our hypothesis is that a cluster of policies or enabling environmental factors facilitates women’s economic empowerment through financial inclusion. Fortunately, there are datasets developed by our peer institutions (some listed above) that explore the policy landscape, enabling environment, financial inclusion, and economic empowerment. We will use these datasets to look at key policies and track their correlation with outcome variables for women over time.

Through this data-driven exercise, we want to identify turnkey policies that unlock women’s economic empowerment through financial inclusion. With resulting recommendations, we will have evidence to drive our policy advocacy around the world. Once we build and test the model, we can project the results of interventions. For example, if a country reforms its movable collateral laws, what might that mean for women’s ease of doing business through the availability of business credit? If a country creates a universal ID system, do women have more agency over their household finances because they have easy access to a safe place to store their funds?

We are thrilled by this opportunity, as the Cloudera Foundation’s first Data4Change Accelerator grantee. This project gives us the freedom to explore what the data tell us, and flexibility if the data do not coalesce into a cohesive model. We are eager to move forward, with technical guidance, thought partnership and financial support from the Cloudera Foundation, and will keep you posted as we progress over the next six months.