Insight Note: A Gender Lens on Financial Well-Being

March 14, 2024

Women’s financial well-being requires agency, and a gender lens on financial well-being is critical to ensuring it is a relevant outcome for women.

Financial well-being and related concepts like financial health, financial security, and resilience are gaining prominence as important outcomes of financial services access and use. Getting these interconnected aspects of financial well-being right is critical for adapting financial services to the felt needs and experiences of the most financially vulnerable populations, especially women.

There are several existing definitions of financial well-being and most include a core set of elements: the ability to meet ongoing financial needs and obligations, cope with negative financial shocks and emergencies, pursue financial aspirations and goals, and feel satisfied and secure about their financial lives.

Yet, for women to experience financial well-being, there are important components of agency that are missing from many of these common definitions:

  • Capability: Women need knowledge about financial concepts, awareness of tools available and the skills to use them, in order to make the best, informed financial decisions for her.
  • Confidence: Women need confidence in her ability to use digital and financial tools, and confidence in her ability to manage income and household assets.
  • Choice: Women need choice of financial services, and choice around how she wants to participate in business and household financial decisions.
  • Control: Women need control over her income and assets, and control over her financial goals and future.

Women’s World Banking believes that financial well-being is an important outcome of financial inclusion, and one that we should all be working toward. However, any framework for financial well-being requires a gender lens in order to ensure it is a relevant outcome for women. Including a focus on agency – and the indicators to measure it – can ensure that women’s unique circumstances are included in the discussions moving forward. Because if we ignore women’s agency, we miss the mark on women’s financial well-being.

This insight note explores the underlying reasons why women’s financial experiences might look different than men’s, and how we can address these differences by bringing the concept of agency into any conceptual framework of financial well-being. The report has recommendations on metrics to measure financial well-being that address these key components for women, and case studies on how Women’s World Banking has used these concepts in our own understanding of women’s financial well-being as an outcome of financial inclusion interventions.