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Women's Financial Inclusion: A Path Toward Economic Equity

By Federica Gregorini - Belvo
General Manager Mexico


Federica Gregorini By Federica Gregorini | General Manager Mexico - Tue, 07/04/2023 - 13:00

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Financial inclusion is key for economic and social development in any country, and Mexico is no exception. However, despite progress in financial inclusion in general, significant disparities persist among men and women. 

Women's financial inclusion is crucial to promoting gender equality and empowering women in all aspects of their lives. Access to financial services, such as bank accounts, credit, insurance and digital payment services, not only gives them greater autonomy and control over their finances, but also allows them to participate fully in the economy and make informed decisions about their future and that of their families.

Despite advances, women in Mexico still face several barriers and challenges that hinder access to and participation in the financial system. 

The first is the gender gap in access to financial services, as women are less likely to have access to basic financial services compared to men. This may be due to factors like lack of official identification, lack of financial literacy, and lack of access to bank branches in rural or low-income areas.

According to the most recent data from the National Financial Inclusion Survey (ENIF), in Mexico, the difference between men and women in terms of holding formal savings accounts has increased significantly between 2018 and 2021, reaching a gap of 13.8 percentage points. In this period, the savings account holding rate for men stood at 56.4%, while for women it was 42.6%. One of the major drawbacks they face is having a bank account, often because they do not have the required identification documents. 

Another major challenge is gender discrimination in the granting of credit, either in terms of higher interest rates or stricter requirements. This limits their ability to access financing to start businesses or invest in their education or housing.

It is estimated that approximately half of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Latin America are owned by women. Despite this, the World Bank reports that around 70% of financing requests made by women entrepreneurs in developing countries are rejected.

In addition, there is a gender digital divide in Mexico. Women have less access to digital technologies and are less skilled using them. This limits their ability to use digital financial services and benefit from online financial inclusion. Women are 14% less likely to own a cell phone than men. This disparity in cellphone ownership factors into less access to digital financial services, as a phone is critical for opening bank accounts and making better use of financial tools, such as money transfers, applying for credit, online payments, and more informed financial decisions.

Currently, the biggest challenge is to integrate financial inclusion with digital inclusion.

Possible Solutions 

Addressing these challenges and promoting women's financial inclusion in Mexico requires coordinated action by the government, the private sector and society. 

First, it is essential to provide adequate and accessible financial education to women from an early age, so that they acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to make informed financial decisions. Policies and programs that promote women's access to basic financial services, such as bank accounts, through the expansion of bank branches and the promotion of mobile financial services, will be vital to reduce these enormous gaps. Efforts should also be made to close the gender digital divide by providing access to connectivity and training women in the use of digital technologies, which will enable them to access digital financial services and take advantage of the benefits of online financial inclusion. 

From a comprehensive economic development perspective for the country, it is important to foster women's economic empowerment through business training programs, access to adequate credit, and policies that promote equal pay and gender equity in the workplace.

Finally, it is important to address social and cultural factors. Awareness of the importance of women's financial inclusion must be promoted and gender stereotypes entrenched in society and in the financial sector must be further challenged. This requires close collaboration between the media, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.

I am convinced that open finance can be instrumental for this issue in Mexico. By providing access to financial data and alternative sources of information, such as employment data, it allows the offering of credit lines with better-set interest rates, enhances financial education and management services through applications, and provides access to tailored digital services.

Women financial inclusion in Mexico is key for a more equitable society and for sustainable economic development. Addressing the challenges women face in accessing the financial system can create opportunities for economic empowerment and more informed decision-making. Promoting women's financial inclusion is not only a matter of social justice, but also a key strategy for driving economic growth and building a more equitable future for all.

Photo by:   Federica Gregorini

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