2.3.3. Resource 3: Finance


Increasing access to and use of quality financial products and services is essential to inclusive economic growth and women’s economic empowerment. Research shows that when people participate in the financial system, they are better able to manage risk, start or invest in a business, and fund large expenditures. Financial inclusion gives women greater choice and control over their lives; however, women continue to face common barriers globally, including lack of access to credit, bank accounts, insurance and other financial products and services that are essential to economic participation and advancement.

The resources in this section highlight research exploring the impact of providing women with a variety of effective and affordable financial tools to save and borrow money, make and receive payments, and manage risk. Other studies included here examine the importance of creating a more gender-inclusive financial system that addresses the specific demand- and supply-side barriers women face, supported by an enabling regulatory environment. Though there is a growing body of evidence surrounding the impact of financial inclusion and the importance of inclusive product design in improving outcomes for women, there remains much to be learned about the ways in which formal financial products and services can contribute to women’s economic empowerment.

Agency and Decision-making

International Development Research Center (IDRC)—What Can Behavioral Science Tell Us About the Financial Decisions of Women?

This paper explores the effectiveness of various behavioral interventions that could be applied by financial services providers. It examines the evidence on interventions that influence savings, credit, payments, and insurance decisions by all adults, focusing on interventions that show promise to improve service delivery for women.

Market Development Facility—Beyond Income: A Critical Analysis of Agency Measurement in Economic Programming

This paper explores the effect of increased household income on women’s economic empowerment in the context of complex household dynamics, and it seeks to understand how access to economic inputs, information, opportunities, and services impacts agency. The report establishes a foundational framework for understanding agency and outlines the fundamentals for a tool to be developed that will allow projects to measure agency in a range of contexts.

SEEP Network—Women’s Empowerment and Savings Groups: What Do We Know?

As savings groups increasingly serve as a pillar of gender-focused programs, there is a need to better understand the pathways between savings groups and women’s empowerment. This learning brief first maps existing approaches and evidence related to savings groups and women’s empowerment, and second, provides practical guidance for the design and results measurement of women’s empowerment through savings Groups. It highlights where positive changes for women are observed, and how outcomes can be enhanced and better sustained, while recognizing and mitigating any unintended consequences of participation in savings groups.

SEEP Network—Where are the Men? How Male Engagement in Savings Groups Can Contribute to Financial Inclusion and Women’s Empowerment

This learning brief argues that the potential for savings groups to empower women is greater when men are engaged. Despite the significant economic benefits that savings groups generate, women will not experience more holistic improvements to their well-being if the gender norms that limit their choices, influence, and actions are not addressed. For savings groups to contribute more broadly to the economic, personal, and social advancement of women, men and boys must be meaningfully engaged in the process, either as savings group members or in supporting activities. After analyzing gender dynamics in savings groups and the reasons for engaging men, this brief offers practical examples of male engagement in savings groups programs.

USAID—The Role of Trust in Increasing Women’s Access to Finance Through Digital Technologies

This paper suggests that trust is a critical factor enabling an individual to decide to acquire, invest in, and use a new technology of any type. It examines five “trust attributes” that influence how women adopt digital finance services (DFS) and it suggests approaches to increase women’s use of DFS. The paper argues that for women to adopt and use digital financial services and products, trust is an important lever due to social norms and policy.

Financial Inclusion

Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) —Emerging Evidence on Financial Inclusion: Moving from Black and White to Color

Recent research on the impact of financial services on the lives of low-income people tends to focus on microcredit or a single financial product. This CGAP Focus Note synthesizes evidence since 2014 and highlights three overarching insights: (1) financial services improve resilience both by facilitating recovery from shocks and encouraging investments that are riskier but potentially more profitable in the longer term; (2) women’s control and ownership of financial services can improve their bargaining power in the household and enable positive outcomes, such as increasing their participation in the labor force; and (3) emerging evidence suggests that financial inclusion can contribute to increased economic growth and reduced poverty.

International Finance Corporation (IFC)—COVID-19 and the Insurance Industry: Why a Gender-Sensitive Response Matters

Women play key roles in their homes, communities, and businesses. If insurers develop targeted approaches and products for women, these products have the potential to earn up to $1.7 trillion by 2030. Insurers can also help increase women's understanding and willingness to buy insurance products to better protect their families and the companies women own or operate. The COVID-19 crisis poses new challenges for women and insurers. This guidance note highlights best practices from insurance companies on how they can support female employees, customers, and agents during the pandemic. The publication also explains how women can contribute to the success of the insurance industry and how insurers can better engage with them during the crisis.

IFC—Mainstreaming Gender and Targeting Women in Inclusive Insurance: Perspectives and Emerging Lessons

This collection of notes and case studies covers a number of themes related to demand and supply of insurance products for women, with a focus on the inclusive insurance market—which seeks to include clients who either don’t have insurance or lack the right insurance coverage. The publication highlights how the insurance needs of women are different from those of men: women are more at risk of losing their income because of pregnancy, divorce or separation, as well as constraints imposed by society and laws. The insurance industry can play a major role in increasing financial protection for women—including those from low-income levels—through approaches that target their specific needs. Insurance companies can design coverage for their illness, pregnancy, and assets, while protecting their savings to cope with financial challenges. The report also highlights how insurance industry stakeholders have an important role in bringing a women-oriented focus to inclusive insurance.

Innovations for Poverty Action—Women’s Economic Empowerment through Financial Inclusion: A Review of Existing Evidence and Remaining Knowledge Gaps

This report explores the need for further evidence on effective product-led strategies to address barriers to women’s financial inclusion and to improve economic empowerment outcomes for women. Specifically, it looks at different financial products and presents the existing evidence on the impact of savings, credit, payments, and insurance products on women’s economic empowerment outcomes, as well as the remaining open research questions in each area.

W20 Argentina—Financial Inclusion Concept Note

This concept note highlights innovative solutions for unbanked women, underbanked women, and women who work in the informal economy. It also outlines barriers that exclude women from the financial world, such as earning power, collateral, mobility, identification, lack of sex-disaggregated data, lower level of financial knowledge, low female representation in the finance and investment industry, and the prominent role of women in the informal economy. Included are recommendations to address the lack of access and usage of financial products and the need to customize services that are responsive to women’s needs.

World Bank—Women’s Financial Inclusion and the Law

This topic note asserts that discriminatory laws can affect women’s demand for financial services and impede their ability to save, borrow, pay, or insure themselves against risk. It further argues that when it comes to women’s financial inclusion, a large gender gap in access to and use of financial services persists.