He worked at Lehman Brothers and the International Finance Corporation for 17 years. Mary Ellen Iskenderian, current president of Women’s World Banking, was in London at the conference Trust Women, organized in November by Thomson Reuters, speaking on women and finance, showing how they are excluded from this sector virtually worldwide. The Women’s World Banking focuses on population sector that earns two dollars a day, sector “where women have less than 28% probability of having a bank account than men.” The bet is to go beyond microfinance and create products that include savings and insurance. Will work with Mozambique soon – but Mary Ellen Iskenderian could not say with whom. “Compared to Kenya and Tanzania, access to digital in Mozambique is very low and a part will be finding ways to access,” just said.
Attitudes towards women and finance are the most difficult to change?
Attitudes towards women and finances are very difficult and slow to change, even in developed countries. It is seen that the economic empowerment gap is still quite large. The World Economic Forum published its annual report on gender in showing that the gap between men and women in relation to several variables improved: the health and survival is 96%, in education is 94% but in relationship to economic participation is 60% – that says a lot. Political empowerment is 21% and that’s where we really need to invest …!
What are the specifics of your products because they work for women?
In the institutions we work with 70% of clients are women. What we learn is that we need to design a product that meets the specific needs of women – they value the practicality, have so little time that it is very important; if we speak of a savings product, confidentiality is very important; security and accessibility in terms of prices is also important. And that does not mean that men also do not like these products because they like.
A few months ago a large American company published a report that showed that women were asking for more information about a product before buying it than men – and we are talking about women with high levels of education. This is important information to take into account when designing a product to get women.
There is a growing concern in Europe about meeting clients on privacy protection and the anti-money laundering laws but we have seen in so many cases in Africa and the South Asian countries women’s birth certificates are not registered. These cards are then ordered in countries like Bangladesh for a SIM card, for example, because of terrorism concerns, which are valid but have consequences. We need public policies that reflect how they affect women.
What is the difference in behavior between men and women on the finances?
It has become a cliché but true: women are much more likely to spend the money they have for spending on three things: education of their children, health for family and home improvements. The often quoted statistic is that women keep 89 cents of $ 1 for these things while men keep 60 cents – is a much higher priority. One of the things we hear often is that women do not want to grow your business. This is due to very often to a poor question: is not that women do not want to see your business grow, the aim is that it have a larger business but to make sure that children have access to education. If it means to grow the business, then fine. But what happens is that when researchers do research on entrepreneurship put the wrong question: women often define its objectives in the context of their family, and this element of the matter is overlooked by researchers.
What can improve in practice with increasing women’s access to finance?
There are many things. We conducted a survey in sub-Saharan Africa and found that the average time between detecting a disease and seek to heal was three days for a child of five to one man and nine for a woman. And the reason for women wait so much is because it is very expensive. We can create a financial product that covers, as we did, those costs, because then women will naturally seek better access to healthcare. We have savings products on behalf of girls, for teens, because in many countries the parents decide they no longer pay schools of daughters when they reach puberty. If the girl has money in his name will study, I can assure you that’s what all teenagers we deal with saving to study. Then there is a strong relationship between domestic violence and property – if a man has to put the woman’s name on their property will be more careful in the way it deals with her … She remains vulnerable but have savings know that you can go-though.