As Women’s World Banking President and CEO, Mary Ellen Iskenderian, puts it: “The global average hides the starker reality of the situation women face. In some countries it will take over 100 years to achieve gender equality in financial access without further intervention.” Even more, the World Economic Forum estimates that it would take 267.6 years to close the gender gap in economic participation and opportunity.
One key reason for the gender disparity in financial access is that when financial products are not intentionally designed for women, they tend to perpetuate the gender gap in access to and usage of financial services. To close the gender gap in financial services worldwide, the financial services industry needs to become more gender intentional, acknowledging women’s lived realities and building financial services and products that mitigate the existing barriers to access and usage, while actively creating opportunities for prosperity and economic growth for women.
We cannot afford to wait more than 100 years to reach gender equality in financial services. Unequal access to technology and myriad other socioeconomic and cultural barriers will continue to expose already vulnerable populations of women to even more risks in the long-term. To give just one example, the gender gap in smartphone ownership has widened to 18%, up from 15% in 2021, which translates to 315 million fewer women than men owning a smartphone.
To reach full financial inclusion for women, we must act now. Financial services providers could drive the change by embracing gender-intelligent design for financial products and services. While the financial services industry has reached consensus on why gender-intelligent design is necessary, one significant gap has persisted within the industry: a truly holistic, practical approach on how to do gender-intelligent product design effectively.
This is where the Women’s World Banking “women-centered design” methodology comes in. Women-centered design is a gender-intelligent design methodology that enables financial services providers to put women customers at the center of the product design process, thus increasing women’s access to formal financial services and helping to close the gender gap while also driving business outcomes.
The objective of this publication is to share the Women’s World Banking women-centered design methodology with the financial industry and provide financial services providers with the knowledge and confidence to use women-centered design to develop financial products and services that truly work for women.