Available statistics in the Global Findex Report, 2017 indicate that out of the 1.7 billion unbanked adults in the world, over 56 per cent (1 billion) are women and finance industry players were counting on Financial Technology (FinTech) to rope in more women, but it would appear even that is a hindrance.
Head of Financial Inclusion Education at the Payment Systems Department of Bank of Ghana, Clarissa Kudowor noted that a yet to be completed local studies have shown that women are more likely to subscribe to call-based Fintech services rather than the text-based ones.
She was speaking at the Women and Digital Finance Webinar Series organized by the Africa Center for Media and Financial Literacy in Accra. The theme was “Fostering Women’s Financial Inclusion and Empowerment: the Role of Regulation and Financial Technology”.
Indeed, Fintech services are overwhelmingly text-based and Clarissa Kudowor believes that is a major put off for women.
She noted that women are usually busy using their hands for household chores, caring for kids and doing many other things so they often do not have the time and even the interest in using Fintech services, which require main texting.
“It has become imperative to create Fintech services that are suited for women and I believe if those services are linked to calls rather than text messaging women will get more interested,” she said.
The irony, however, is that loads of women are on social media posting text messages and comments on other people’s posts 24/7, so what is different when it comes to texting on Fintech platforms?
Clarissa Kudawor noted that the ongoing studies is showing that whereas men like ICT challenges and feel victorious when they are able to surmount and master a Fintech-related challenge, women are not even interested in buttons, much less surmounting Fintech challenges.
She also noted that added to women’s lack of interest in text-based Fintech services, they are also largely very timid when they interact with financial service providers, out the erroneous feeling that the service providers are doing them a favor.
Clarissa Kudowor cited the example of some jurisdictions where women are required to get the consent of their male relatives before they can get financial services, saying that all those gender insensitive cultures impede the financial inclusion of women.
She however believes digital finance is key to driving the inclusion of women in the finance sector, once all the gender sensitive issues are addressed.
Clarissa Kudowor is therefore advocating for the digitization of the entire informal sector so that women, who form the greater majority of that sector, will naturally warm up to Fintech services.
“I also believe one other way to achieve that is to increase the gender diversity in the finance sector workforce from the top to the bottom,” she said.
The BoG official noted that globally, at the decision-making level, only 10 per cent of Central Bank Governors in the world are women, and that explains why even Fintech services are not quite gender friendly yet.
“The gender balance must begin from the institutional level and run all the way down to even the number of women who are mobile money agents,” she said.
Meanwhile, Product and Platforms Manager at DreamOval, Asiedua Debrah-Apomah agrees that there is need to make Fintech service gender sensitive but called-based Fintech will be both expensive for the service provider and the consumer.
She is therefore advocating for constant training for women so that they can keep up with developments in the Fintech space.
According to her, one of the main reasons women are the most unbanked is because they form majority of respondents who said they do not have an account because another family member (usually male) has one.
Asiedua Debrah-Apomah however noted that studies and experiences in other jurisdictions have showed that digital finance encourages investment by minorities, saying that in Malawi for instance, farmers now invest 13 per cent more of their earnings because they receive payments on digital platforms so reinvesting is much easier and less cumbersome.
She noted that even though cash remains king till date, digital finance is safer, more secure, more and transparent, adding that transactions on digital platforms are easily traceable for accountability, unlike making payment in cash to a seller and being unable to trace that seller in case one needs a refund.
Asiedua believes digital finance particularly suits the general lifestyle of women because it cuts the stress of having to travel to banking halls, shops and other transaction points, and allows women to spend their time taking care of their kids and other necessities while doing financial transactions in the comfort of their homes and office.