Moment 'ripe' for improving women's access to finance

Why is financial inclusion so important for women? We asked Iskenderian.

Access to financial services has tremendous potential to improve prosperity and security — especially for women — if done correctly.

The rapid growth of mobile technology has removed some of the barriers to finance and resulted in getting more traditional financial actors involved — or at least considering products — for those in hard to reach communities, according to Mary Ellen Iskenderian, president and CEO of Women’s World Banking.

Although in general women in any income group enjoy less access to financial services than men, the situation is particularly dramatic for those living on $2 a day or less, who are 28 percent less likely to get basic financing then men, Iskenderian said in an interview with Devex at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s International Women’s Day Forum in New York.

Iskenderian shared lessons learned on microfinance to develop best practices.

At the moment, mobile technology and regulatory changes are creating an atmosphere ripe for improved access and products designed specifically for women that address both a need for convenience and privacy.  

The head of Women’s World Banking discussed some of the problems that microfinance organizations face and what lessons the industry has learned — particularly the importance of product diversification. It’s not only a benefit to the companies but to the women they seek to serve.

“Interesting research points to the combination of credit, savings and financial education really having that sort of illusive financial impact that we heard so much about in the early days of microfinance,” she said.

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She Builds is a month-long conversation hosted by Devex in partnership with Chemonics, Creative Associates, JBS International, the Millennium Challenge Corp., United Nations Office for Project Services and U.K. Department for International Development.

About the author

  • Adva Saldinger

    Adva Saldinger is an Associate Editor at Devex, where she covers the intersection of business and international development, as well as U.S. foreign aid policy. From partnerships to trade and social entrepreneurship to impact investing, Adva explores the role the private sector and private capital play in development. A journalist with more than 10 years of experience, she has worked at several newspapers in the U.S. and lived in both Ghana and South Africa.

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