A New Playbook for Gender Data and Financial Inclusion

Rebecca Ruf, EVP at Financial Alliance for Women Mayra Buvinic May 05, 2023

Did you know that in Italy women were paying 28 basis points more for a similar loan than men? While in Chile, women were paying 61 basis points more for a consumer loan? Is this because of implicit biases against women customers from financial sector providers or because women are accessing smaller and more expensive loans? Gender data can help answer these questions, and more. But most countries are not systematically collecting and/or using gender data across their financial sector.

A Gender Data Playbook

Believing in the power of data to catalyze change, in 2019 the Women’s Financial Inclusion Data (WFID) Partnership began working in six country pilots to accelerate the collection and use of sex-disaggregated supply-side data to improve women’s financial inclusion. From this contextually rich work we have put together a Gender Data Playbook that codifies its learnings into a practical tool to help other countries boost the systemic collection of gender data at the national level. The playbook can help countries collect reliable and useful gender data to design and monitor policies, correct gender biases in the system, and address the specific needs of the women’s market by designing financial solutions that reach all customers equitably. 

The playbook is directed to stakeholders across the financial ecosystem: policymakers and regulators, financial service providers (commercial banks, mobile money providers, financial technology providers, housing lenders), trade associations, think tanks, civil society organizations, and other industry leaders, as well as advocates and financial sector specialists in international agencies.

Country Insights

One of the central learnings from working with the pilot countries was that sex-disaggregated financial data is not unavailable; but it often exists in silos and is not used to its full potential.

We engaged with many financial institutions, government agencies, trade associations, and others, in each country, and were surprised to find that there is a good amount of sex-disaggregated data being collected by the market and in some cases provided to regulators. Yet much of it is not being centralized in systems that can generate useful insights for policymakers to boost women’s financial inclusion. For instance, credit bureaus may have access to data that could help governments devise targeted policies to reduce the gap in access to credit. Likewise, in the private sector, only a small group of financial institutions are leveraging the data to design financial solutions or to measure the performance of their portfolios.

We found that to overcome the issue of data being siloed and under-used, people driving these initiatives in countries must understand the complex ecosystem of stakeholders who contribute to it (Who collects what data? Who is that data shared with? Is that data analyzed and if so by whom?). They also need to gain buy-in from stakeholders across sectors—including by building awareness of the size of gender gaps and the economic benefits of filling them. Gender data champions with influential roles in the financial ecosystem are instrumental to driving gender data collection and reporting. External stakeholders (donors and international financial institutions) can be powerful advocates in influencing financial regulators to track women’s financial inclusion data as well.  

Five Steps

Using these insights, the Gender Data Playbook outlines a five-step process that can catalyze a country’s data disaggregation journey or help improve its existing gender data practices, through a highly collaborative approach: diagnose, build awareness, develop data systems, build capabilities, and use data to spark action. 

Each step contains practical information including key questions to consider, research insights, practical examples from countries (including the six pilot countries and others that the WFID Partnership has engaged with), and additional resources. The playbook also features a number of interactive tools that users can download and use on their own, including a tool to help map the flow of gender data through the financial ecosystem, sample surveys for financial sector providers’ to understand their sex-disaggregated data capabilities; a calculator to estimate the revenue potential of serving the women’s market with financial services; and an action plan that helps apply all the learnings into prioritized actions.

We encourage financial sector stakeholders and gender data advocates to use the playbook and give us feedback on what works, what is missing, and what needs enhancements. Our hope is that financial sector actors will use the playbook to create a systematic approach to their gender data and develop more concrete actions to ensure the more equitable access to financial services for women across the world.

Download our Gender Data Playbook for Women’s Financial Inclusion.

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