Action 4

Enable Gender-Intelligent Design

Suggested Approaches

  • Define GID, socializing the concept across the organization and establishing a set of standards and implementation guidelines.
  • Work with the private sector to advocate and incentivize products and services that have been designed with gender-intelligent considerations.
  • Ensure that measurement frameworks reflect women’s use of DFS.
  • Encourage and incentivize the use of GID.

When financial products are designed for everyone, they are pitched as “gender neutral,” meaning they offer the same experience to everyone, regardless of gender. However, given the historical likelihood that these products and services were conceptualized and built by men, there is a risk that products are not gender neutral, but gender blind. Financial products and services that are based on men’s assumptions and realities are unlikely to resonate with and serve women’s needs. As the saying goes, the phrase “one size fits all” actually means “one size fits men.”

If regulators want to close the gender gap in women’s financial inclusion, it is paramount that they see the importance of ensuring that the design of financial products and services is not just “gender neutral” but also gender intelligent. GID draws on data—both qualitative and quantitative—to understand women’s preferences and behaviors and to create products and services that reflect, and resonate with, women’s lives.

While regulation is often gender blind, this does not signal that policy makers have intentionally sought to exclude women; rather, it signals that services designed by men have privileged men’s wants and needs—and women are expected to adapt to them. To right this, it is crucial that policy makers not only advocate and support GID but also adopt and absorb it internally. As detailed below, policy makers can move the needle on GID in DFS in several ways.

Action 4

Introducing GID; setting standards within the regulator

Gender-blind financial services rarely exist as a result of an explicit effort to exclude women; rather, providers have merely failed to appreciate that women’s financial wants and needs differ from those of men. To ensure that those working at a regulator see the importance and benefit of GID, it is critical that regulators create a common understanding of the role of GID within the organization. Accomplishing this involves the following:

  • Defining and explaining gender-blind, gender-aware, and gender-intelligent approaches to staff within the FSP.
  • Setting standards for gender-inclusive design within the regulators, such as specific guidelines and protocols for the research, design, and development of DFS that address the needs and preferences of women and other marginalized groups.

Country Examples

Link to Jordan case studies
Action 4

Championing the need for research into women’s financial behaviors

Intelligent design requires data to inform it— and policy makers are in a prime position to advocate for FSPs to conduct research into the needs of women customers. Such research includes the following:

  • Understanding, through quantitative and qualitative research, the patterns and habits of women’s DFS usage, and gaps therein.
  • Requiring FSPs to share with policy makers this anonymized summary data, the key emerging trends they observe, and how these will inform DFS design for women.
Action 4

Putting gender-intelligent M&E in place

M&E frameworks can also be gender blind if they are not asking the right questions or reporting on pertinent indicators. If policy makers are aiming to improve women’s access to DFS, it is crucial they track the progress of gender outcomes within the financial sector. This can be achieved by the following:

  • Establishing a set of gender-intelligent indicators for FSPs that capture changes in gender roles, norms, and relationships to help ensure that the program is addressing gender issues effectively-for example, the proportion of women who have access to credit as compared to men, or the saving behaviors of women as compared to men following a financial goals workshop.
  • Measuring the collective gendered impact of DFS and policies supporting women’s digital financial inclusion.

Resource for Policy Makers

The Alliance for Financial Inclusion’s 2022 toolkit on policy and regulation design provides a policy-specific self-assessment based on the gender-transformative continuum.

Action 4

The carrot and the stick: using gender-intelligent approaches

Policy makers can expedite progress by putting structures in place that encourage FSPs to use GID. These structures can be thought of as belonging in two buckets— incentivizing and accountability.

Policy makers can mandate FSPs and other companies to consider GID by

  • Requiring FSPs to have a certain percentage of women on their boards of directors and executive teams, and penalizing noncompliance;
  • Requiring FSPs to collect and analyze sex-disaggregated data and report these figures to the policy maker on a quarterly or biannual basis; and
  • Requiring companies and organizations to report information about their efforts to promote women’s inclusion in their financial products and services and to make this information publicly available.

As highlighted in Action 2, policy makers can also reward the use of GID, encouraging FSPs to use it by

  • Establishing initiatives such as certification or labelling programs that recognize and promote products and services that have been designed with gender-intelligent considerations;
  • Recognizing and rewarding organizations that have implemented GID (for example, by means of industry awards, communications, and other media); and
  • Encouraging companies and organizations to develop their own GID policies and guidelines and recognizing and rewarding those who do.
Action 4

Offering support to companies to adopt GID practices

Beyond encouraging FSPs to pursue GID, policy makers can actively provide the following financial and in-kind support to FSPs as they test new approaches to products and services:

  • Providing funding for research and development of GID, such as financing for pilot projects that test innovative solutions for increasing women’s adoption and usage of DFS.
  • Offering technical assistance (either directly or through funding) to FSPs to help them design and implement new gender-intelligent solutions.
  • Raising awareness of the importance of GID, to educate stakeholders on how to design and implement gender-inclusive solutions, through training and education.
  • Providing financial incentives, through tax breaks and other subsidies, to companies and organizations that implement GID.
  • Encouraging innovation by providing funding, promotion, the ability to use initiatives such as sandboxes, and other support for start-ups and small businesses that are developing gender-inclusive products and services.
Action 4

Modelling gender-intelligent approaches

Policy makers who practice what they preach are likely to be more aware of GID within FSPs (or the lack thereof) and have more credibility when requiring FSPs to follow suit. Credibility can be achieved through the following actions:

  • Incorporating gender-sensitive considerations in the procurement of goods and services by setting criteria and guidelines to ensure that providers take the specific needs and preferences of women into account.
  • Conducting their own research and analysis to improve their understanding of the needs and preferences of women, and using this information to develop policies and regulations that promote GID, as well as the standards discussed earlier in this section.
Action 4

Encouraging and incentivizing partnerships

Policy makers are not alone in considering GID; other industries and sectors are also grappling with gender gaps and how to improve women’s access to a wide range of products and services. There is much to learn from and share with other stakeholders, including civil society organizations, academic institutions, and international organizations. Encouraging collaboration and engagement between inter-industry partners to share best GID practices can promote GID as an industry norm at both local and global levels.

FinEquity, the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor’s community of practice focused on women’s financial inclusion, has put together a collection of resources, including research, case studies, toolkits, and best practice guidelines, to support GID in women’s financial inclusion. Refer to FinEquity Knowledge Guide: Incorporating Gender-intelligent Design in Financial Services for the compendium of resources.