Driving Gender Data in 6 Key Markets

Thursday 26th May 2022

Financial services providers (FSPs) are data-driven organizations—but not always when it comes to women. The lack of sufficient collection, quality and usage of gender data (or sex-disaggregated data) plays a major role in sustaining the gender gap in financial services. This data is essential for FSPs to size the market, understand segment opportunities, increase customer engagement and serve more women.

We believe that gender data is no longer just “nice to have,” but a prerequisite to becoming the FSP of the future. Collecting quality gender data is also necessary for designing effective financial inclusion policies for regulators and interventions for development finance banks and civil society actors. So how do we make it happen?

This is the challenge that the Alliance and Data2X have been working on, alongside other leading organizations and financial institutions as part of the Women’s Financial Inclusion Data (WFID) Partnership, a coalition dedicated to advancing the use of gender data to drive women’s financial inclusion. For the past two years, we’ve been investigating the current state of gender data and paths forward through in-depth research in six countries: Bangladesh, Honduras, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey. In each country, we surveyed the majority of FSPs and interviewed public, private, and nongovernmental stakeholders about how they use gender data.

The research had two goals: First, to understand the current state of gender data (what’s collected and how it’s used); and second, to explore how to increase its collection to help drive business and policy decisions toward the full financial inclusion of women. A summary of the findings and lessons learned from the six countries is forthcoming in a Data2X and Alliance publication next month. Stay tuned. We extract some of these common findings below:

  1. Across the board, there is more gender data available than expected—including demand-side data (from consumers) and less so, but still notably, supply-side data (from FSPs). While the extent of data availability varies across countries, we were pleased to find that many FSPs already have the capabilities to sex-disaggregate individual account-level data: A strong starting point. However, women’s enterprise data remains a major gap in every country we looked at as FSPs continue to struggle to define and count these businesses.
  2. Just because data is available does not mean it’s being used to its full potential. Unfortunately, the fact that data is being disaggregated by sex has not necessarily translated into practical, data-driven solutions for women (on the policy or financial services sides). Often, the data collected goes unused because of problems with the mechanics of production or reporting and lack of buy-in from key stakeholders within the organization.
  3. For the data to be used effectively by FSPs, it needs to be mainstreamed into regular management reporting. While FSPs may report gender data to a regulator, often they do not include this data in their own reporting to management. This happens in Nigeria and Pakistan, for example, because the data requested by regulators is not relevant to business KPIs.
  4. Building awareness is still key. Many people, from the sales force to management, still do not see how gender data supports the bottom line. Without a connection to the business, even with increased requirements from regulators and/or IFIs, it will be tough to make gender data part of regular management reporting. And so, sharing the many strong examples of how FSPs have used gender data to create strong women’s market strategies is key (just look at the role of data in the driving successful women’s market offerings at Banco BHD León, NatWest, and TEB for a start).

More in-depth learnings from each of the six pilot countries are being published in national gender data diagnostic reports, the first of which, Turkey, is now available. The gender data mapping exercise we conducted in each country has encouraged dialogue among market participants. But we need more efforts and resources to support FSPs in producing and using this data, and governments and international organizations can provide incentives and encouragement.

To jump-start such efforts, this June, the Alliance, alongside Data2X, is launching our first-ever Data Learning Series for business intelligence and product/segment leads from FSPs. The series, “Gender Data Driving Business Decisions” will help them hone their gender data analytics capabilities and understand the use cases for its application. The Data Learning Series is by invitation only and is open to all Alliance members.

We also champion the use of gender data through our Female Economy Analytics Survey. We launched our 2021 Survey last week and hope to continue our trajectory of having more members reporting more data each year. Not only does members’ participation enable our network to produce the world’s only collection of global financial data measuring the performance of institutions serving the women’s market—it also helps their institutions, as we have heard from many members, to become more sophisticated in their use of gender data to drive reach and retention with women customers.

With a concerted effort by all stakeholders, we can ethically leverage a data-rich present to advance financial services toward a gender-equal future.