FinEquity Blog

Co-creating Solutions for Effective Women’s Financial Inclusion in Latin America and The Caribbean

Main Takeaways From the #FinEquityALC2024 Annual Convening
Members of the FinEquityALC community at the 2024 Annual Convening in Bogotá.

During two intense days of learning and exchanging experiences, one online and one in person in Bogotá, Colombia, the FinEquityALC community held its #FinEquityALC2024 Annual Convening in partnership with Bancamía, an entity of the BBVA Microfinance Foundation, CAF – banco de desarrollo de América Latina y el Caribe, Fundación WWB Colombia, and Banca de las Oportunidades.

Over 450 participants attended the two-day event, representing 33 countries from Latin America and the world! They took part very actively, exploring common challenges, exchanging experiences and lessons learned in our work in the sector, with the aim of generating strategic alliances to continue co-creating innovative and effective solutions, to empower women through financial inclusion in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Throughout the two days, the energy and enthusiasm for learning and sharing was very clear.  This spirit was reflected in the results of the post-event survey, in which 100% of respondents expressed that what they learned at the event is relevant or very relevant to their work in the sector. This fills us with pride and drives us to continue with our work!

There were certainly many takeaways, but here below we share some that we believe are key:

The Vice President of Colombia, Francia Márquez, inspired the FinEquityALC community in an opening fireside chat with Sophie Sirtaine Chief Executive Officer of CGAP, in which she shared her motivation to become a champion of savings and women’s empowerment in Colombia based on autonomy and community building. She also reminded us that women’s economic autonomy is not achieved solely through financial inclusion, but requires a comprehensive approach. That is why it is crucial to promote full financial inclusion that includes access to savings, not only through access to credit, provided under suitable conditions and with consumer protection mechanisms. A holistic approach that recognizes and addresses multiple dimensions is necessary to truly empower women and ensure their active and equal participation in the economy and in society as a whole. 

The financial system is becoming increasingly aware of the value of serving women. This was emphasized during the panel facilitated by Carolina Trivelli, Former Minister of Social Development and Inclusion of Peru. The speakers in this panel were Marisela Alvarenga, Managing Director, Financial Institutions Latin America and the Caribbean, IDB Invest, Carolina Cárdenas, Senior General Manager for Colombia and the Andean region, IFC, Paola Arias, Director, Banca de las Oportunidades, and Gabriela Eguidazu, Director of Innovation and Inclusive Growth BBVA Microfinance Foundation. Alvarenga shared that "in five years, 75% of decision-making will come from women, there is a loss of business if this segment is not served." In this context, it is important to understand what causes disparities in women’s access and financing conditions, develop value propositions according to their needs, as well as support them throughout their life cycle both as entrepreneurs and as individuals. Data plays a key role in helping financial institutions gain a better understanding of these disparities, and new technologies and open finance offer great potential to reduce gender gaps in financial inclusion.

Gender-disaggregated supply data is essential for designing strategies and interventions that not only help increase women's use of financial services so that they are more resilient and prosperous, but also empower them to be stronger actors in the market. This was shown both in the online session and the data workshop in Bogotá led by Tatiana Alonso, Senior Financial Sector Specialist at CGAP and María Moreno Sánchez, Senior Financial Sector Specialist. It is essential to use this data for innovation in product design, supervisory procedures, risk management and regulatory development. That is why it must be quality data, otherwise it loses its value. The regulator must require this data, because "if it is not required, it is not collected and if it is collected, then it is not used." That is why dialogue with the industry is essential to develop reporting requirements that make sense, guarantee their relevance and usefulness.

Women need financial (and non-financial) products tailored to their needs. They have historically been better payers than men and yet they continue to pay higher rates and face greater barriers to financing. Institutions are increasingly leveraging the potential of women's banking and those that do so have some common traits, as shown in a recent IDB study which was shared at the meeting. Some of them are: they design products and services focused on women’s specific needs, offer alternative credit scorings, and combine their product offerings with cross-selling of non-financial services. 

Regulation remains a cornerstone in advancing women's financial inclusion. Financial sector regulators need to be intentional about gender and actively consider how their regulations influence outcomes for women. This was shown both in the panel led by Zaira Badillo, Head of Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Office of AFI, with participation of Margarita Hernández, Superintendent, SEPs, Marcela Herrera, Education and Financial Inclusion and Gender Manager, Comisión Nacional de Bancos y Seguros de Honduras, and Paula Franco, Head of the Financial Inclusion Group, Superfinanciera de Colombia, as well as in the regulatory workshop in Bogotá led by Mariana López, CGAP Consultant, together with Marco del Río from BFA Global. This is an exhaustive external and internal process requiring a foundation of structural and situational readiness. The case of Honduras and Ecuador highlighted a continuous journey of awareness and sensitization at all institutional levels. Colombia focused on the development of a roadmap for financial inclusion with a gender lens and the creation of dynamic dashboards to capture financial inclusion data which supervised institutions report disaggregated by sex. From Mexico, we learned that even when regulatory changes do occur, the resulting impact often unfolds gradually. Creativity emerged as a prerequisite, strengthening the fact that perceiving women merely as customers is not enough to drive changes in business models, and that is why the regulator is in a unique position to introduce new incentives for the private sector to advance this agenda more systematically.

Designing financial education programs with a gender and behavioral economics approach, to improve the well-being and financial health of women, must be “user-centric,” that is, go beyond the financial gaps that women face and understand other more structural gaps such as violence, care issues, time poverty, among other factors, that do not allow them to use financial products. This was highlighted in the workshop led by Diana Mejía, Senior Specialist in Productive and Financial Development, CAF - banco de desarrollo de América Latina y el Caribe, and Barbara Auricchio, Senior Gender Executive in the same institution. Another finding is that it is also essential to work on behavioral economics to understand how to develop these programs according to how women live in their own environments. By linking financial education to financial products designed or adapted for women, it is possible to take advantage of these teaching moments to achieve better adoption of financial health habits.

In the leadership session during the online event, Barbara Magnoni, co-founder of the Andares Mujeres network, alongside with Verónica Herrera, Executive Director of Micrédito Nicaragua, and Alexandra Quiroga, CEO of AXA Colpatria, explored the theory of change of the Andares Mujeres network, and validated that women tend to be more empathetic to the needs of their environment, to work with vulnerable populations. Having women in leadership positions and in positions that interact with vulnerable populations, contributes to them being more inclined to initiatives that promote inclusion and work towards a more equitable distribution of economic resources. It was emphasized that the creation of financial products adapted to women’s needs is facilitated when there is a diversity of voices at the decision-making table.

Partnerships and collaboration in co-creation spaces such as those facilitated by FinEquityALC, among all actors in the sector, both public and private, are essential to move from plan to action in promoting the financial inclusion of women, as emphasized both by Verónica Gavilanes, Deputy General Manager, BancoSol, in the closing words of the online event, and by Viviana Araque Mendoza, President of Bancamía, in her welcoming remarks in Bogotá. By pooling their resources, knowledge and experience, all players in the sector can work more effectively and efficiently to achieve the goal of empowering women through financial inclusion, and creating a more equitable and prosperous future for all.

FinEquityALC 2024 Annual Convening has come to an end, but our work has not.

On behalf of FinEquityALC, I invite you to continue creating collaborative spaces in which to exchange learning to achieve greater equality!

#FinEquityALC2024 Annual Convening

Conjunto de fotos talleres Bogotá FinEquityALC2024
Relive the event on this page.  Stream all session recordings, 
download presentations, and view the photo gallery.
View Day 1 and the Day 2 Agenda.

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