FinEquity Guide

FinEquity Knowledge Guide: Incorporating Gender-intelligent Design in Financial Services 

FinEquity Knowledge Guide: Incorporating Gender-intelligent Design in Financial Services 

Women lead varied and complex lives and face varied and complex barriers to access to finance that depend on a plethora of factors such as their race, education, sexual orientation, location, and marital and socioeconomic status, for example. They need financial services that meet their needs where they are and work for them. 

Historically, financial services providers (FSPs) have generally considered their products and services to be “gender-neutral” – that is, equally valuable and applicable to men and women alike. However, if product design does not intentionally consider women’s realities, it is built for men—as demonstrated by the stubborn gender gap in financial and digital inclusion. This, alongside other strong evidence, has shown us that “gender-neutral” means “gender-blind.”  

To close the gender gap in financial inclusion, it is crucial that we become more gender-aware, take into account women’s lived realities and build financial services that create opportunities and lower barriers in their lives. To achieve greater financial inclusion and reap its benefits both for customers and the financial institutions themselves, FSPs must take a gender-intelligent design approach, drawing on quantitative and qualitative research and focusing on creating value for women. FSPs should not be concerned that products designed for women will not work for their male customers. There is much evidence demonstrating that what works for women works for men, but not the other way around. This is also in-line with the design principle that encourages building your offering with the hardest to reach customer in mind. 

What is the purpose of this guide? 

This guide brings together a wide scope of resources that address gender-intelligent design: research, case studies, toolkits and best practice guidelines. The guide is structured to allow users to easily mine the most relevant resources on gender-intelligent design in women’s financial inclusion. The first section is targeted at FSPs and other stakeholders who are looking for evidence and examples of why designing for women is critical. The second section includes resources on segmentation approaches and user research. The third section includes resources focused on design principles and methodologies. It is not an exhaustive list, but rather a compilation of resources that have been peer-reviewed and are considered the most useful in addressing different components of gender-intelligent design. 

Who is this guide for? 

This guide was created for FSPs, policymakers, practitioners and others who are invested in creating financial services that address women’s needs. It aims to provide these stakeholders with appropriate and practical design resources to help them improve the financial inclusion of the women client segments that they work with. 

This resource guide has been produced in collaboration with USAID. It will be updated with new resources periodically.  For even more resources on this topic, visit FinEquity's Resource Library.

Recommended Resources

Why Design for Women?

Customer Centricity - Gather Women-Centric Insights to Drive Innovative Design

This brief offers four key success factors for serving low-income women profitably and sustainably based on a customer-centricity approach. It emphasizes that successfully designing financial products and services that meet women’s needs and priorities will require a gender-intelligent lens. Brief case studies from Ujjivan Small Finance Bank in India and Compartamos Banco in Mexico underscore the value and potential outcomes of this approach. 

These insights are useful if you are looking for a high-level and practical overview of the importance of approaching design with a gender-intelligent lens. 

How Fintechs Can Capture the Female Economy

This report offers a digestible and compelling economic argument for FinTechs to take a gender-intelligent approach. It lays out a clear roadmap for FinTechs and their investors to understand and improve women’s use of digital financial products and services. The report details barriers to women’s uptake, offers concrete solutions and spells out key metrics for sex-disaggregated analysis to measure progress. The roadmap is presented as a sales funnel, breaking down each stage of this pipeline with clear instructions and examples.

This report is useful if you are a FinTech or working for a FinTech and want to understand the opportunity that women customers present with a clear economic argument.   

Designing Financial Services and Social Protection Programs to Enhance Women’s Economic Empowerment

This policy insight is based on an evidence review of women’s economic empowerment initiatives in 20 low- and middle-income countries. It emphasizes the need for financial inclusion and social protection programs to employ design features that offer women greater control over their finances and protect against the demands of other household members. 

This policy insight is useful if you are looking for information to make the case for gender intelligent design in financial services to leadership.   

Rural Women’s Access to Financial Services: Credit, Savings and Insurance

This paper details the manifold factors that affect women’s financial lives: legal rights, social norms, family responsibilities, access/ control over other resources, and rationalizes that to better serve women, rural financial policies, programs, and services must be planned, designed, implemented, monitored, and evaluated in a gender-sensitive way, illustrating this with a wide range of examples.  

This working paper is useful if you are looking for well-documented evidence on the financial service constraints that rural women face, and the need for gender-intelligent design to remedy them. 

Revolutionizing Product Design in Financial Services

This Women’s World Banking publication spotlights their women-centered design methodology. It provides a set of key design principles along with practical case studies to equip financial inclusion stakeholders, including financial services providers, with the knowledge and confidence to use women-centered design to develop financial products and services that truly work for women.

This report is useful if you are a financial service provider looking for a holistic, practical approach on how to undertake gender-intelligent product design effectively. 

The Case for a Gender-Intelligent Approach: An Opportunity for Inclusive Fintechs

This blog discusses the problem with a gender-blind approach in perpetuating bias, and how a gender-intelligent or gender-aware approach is cognizant of women’s specific constraints, resonating further with the intended audience. Case studies from two FinTechs in Sub-Saharan Africa, Paycode and Extramile highlight the potential of gender-aware approaches in this largely untapped market.

This blog is useful if you are looking for a concise explanation of “gender-blind” and “gender-aware” approaches, and a clear argument for FinTechs to adopt gender-intelligent practices. 

The following resources focus on user research and designing for segments of women with shared characteristics such as age, location, livelihood or constraints. Comprising of working papers and programmatic assessments, they demonstrate how categorizing women into subgroups - beyond the supposed segment of “women” - allows FSPs and practitioners to consider the lives of the women they are designing financial services for in a tangible way. 

How to Design for Women: Segmentation and User Research

Why a Segmentation Strategy Matters for Serving the Women’s Market

This working paper draws on KIT’s work with Access Bank in Sub-Saharan Africa. It shares the methodology used to understand the needs and preferences of specific women customer segments and how FSPs can use a segmentation strategy to deliver more resonant financial services. 

This working paper is useful if you are an FSP and want to grasp how to inform different market segments and demonstrate the need to design financial services with a more diverse women’s market in mind.  

D3 Implementation - Analysis of the Digitize/Direct/Design Criteria Applied to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in Bihar, India

This landscaping report applies the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s D3 criteria (direct, digitize, design) to analyze the effectiveness of NREGS, India’s largest safety net program for rural households in the state of Bihar. It provides a thorough assessment of the constraints facing Bihari women, the success of the program’s gender-intentional design and makes recommendations for program adjustments, specifically identifying high-potential return areas to reform.  

This report is useful if you want to understand the role of research and analysis in gender-intelligent design or are looking for an example of the D3 criteria in action. 

Delivering on the Potential of Digitized G2P

This research paper examines what influences account usage of women beneficiaries in Indonesia’s largest conditional cash transfer program. Based on quantitative and qualitative research, it defines four distinct segments of beneficiaries based on their account usage behaviors, details the drivers and challenges of these different segments and provides a set of use cases and recommendations. 

This report is useful if you are looking for an example of how a data-driven segmentation strategy can inform financial service design and achieve successful outcomes. 

Informed Design Case studies

This case study looks at WomenSave, an organization targeting low-income women in rural Uganda with financial literacy training and financial advisory services, access to mobile money, and goal-based savings plans. The case study details how research insights have translated into tangible design elements to ease and encourage women’s use of DFS.

These case studies are useful if are looking for in-depth examples of a gender intentional research and design process for digital financial services. 

The following resources are segment and product agnostic, offering broad instruments - toolkits, principles, insights – to enable the reader to adopt a gender-intelligent approach to design. Some resources included stem from lessons learned during a specific program implementation, others are the result of long-standing observations regarding the design of women’s financial services. 

How to Design for Women: Principles and Methodologies

Gender and Design Toolkit

This comprehensive and practical toolkit offers a step-by-step approach, detailing the process required to transform gender norms within programming and avoid reinforcing existing gender inequalities. It provides users with a foundational knowledge of gender dynamics and a user-friendly framework for gender-transformative design. It allows practitioners to move their solutions from “gender negative” to “gender transformative”, and better establish what they are trying to achieve, before offering some simple tools to aid them in this work. In particular, modules four (design research) and five (design direction) are salient in creating financial services that resonate with women’s lives. 

This toolkit is useful for FSPs looking to design products that meet women's specific needs. 

Smartphone Solutions that Work for Her – Design Principles

​This resource shares eight design principles with clear guidance on how they can be used to develop smartphone features for women in rural India. It also includes examples that demonstrate how each broad principle is translated into a user interface feature for women smartphone users. While designed to increase women’s smartphone usage in rural India, these principles are pertinent beyond this particular target group.  

These principles are useful if you are designing phone UI features that resonate with and are of value to women. 

Women and Money – Final Report

This research report looks at the complex relationships that women have with financial services and examines specific barriers women face within the financial system. Women’s diverse wants and needs are illustrated by a series of global archetypes representing different financial behaviors. This report also presents global design opportunities for improving women’s use of DFS, as well as a set of design principles. Focusing largely on cash-in and cash-out (CICO) services collected insights on women’s use of DFS in seven geographies (Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Northern Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Tanzania).  

This report is useful if you are looking for a comprehensive segmentation approach that can drive the effective design of CICO for women. 

Enhancing Women’s Economic Empowerment Through Digital Cash Transfers Digitize/Direct/Design: The D3 Criteria

The D3 Criteria (direct, design, digitize) is an approach to evaluate and inform existing and proposed social protection programs. Social payments, such as digital cash transfer programs, are often discussed as a means to rapidly bring women into formal financial services, and in turn, improve their economic empowerment. This hypothesis only rings true if such services are designed with a gender intentional lens, and the transfers are delivered digitally and directly into an account owned and operated by a woman. The D3 Criteria outlines the criteria needed to realize the vision, maximize benefits and reduce potential risks for women.

These criteria are useful if you are assessing the impact of social protection programs on women and need a “best in class” checklist to evaluate programming against. 

Four Guiding Principles for User Research with Low-Income Women in Emerging Markets

Understanding that designing effective financial services without user input is not possible, these guiding principles frame Women’s World Banking’s approach to user research. Focusing on community context, the need for privacy, use versus ownership and social norms, these principles offer concrete guidance and a clear means to reflect on planned research. This resource also includes practical tips to apply during research design, implementation, and interpretation for each of the four principles.  

These principles are useful if you are preparing and stress testing your approach to research with low-income women, and want to ensure the resonance of financial produces stemming from this research. 

Training Resources

Gender Analytics: Gender Equity through Inclusive Design Specialization

This five-course specialization on gender-based analytics teaches learners how to analyze products, services, processes, and policies with a gender lens to uncover hidden opportunities for innovation and improved effectiveness. The course consists of lectures (videos), readings, tests, graded assignments and quizzes, discussion forum, and peer feedback. There is also a self-paced option. It helps learners to: demystify key concepts related to gender and intersectionality, gather qualitative and quantitative data using ethical practices, use human-centered design and empathy to interpret insight, and employ rapid prototyping to design products, services, processes, or policies with beneficiaries or target audience, assess the impact of inclusive design solutions, and prepare organizations to execute Gender Analytics effectively. 

Who is this course for and how to use it:  

  • Business leaders to use gender insights to innovate. 
  • Government & NGO professionals to do gender-based analysis (GBA+). 
  • Women’s studies experts for job-related applications. 
  • Business analytics experts to extend their skills to questions of equity. 
  • Human resources professionals to be partners for business innovation. 

Online, $39 USD/ month, financial aid available; certificate for completing all five courses.

Blind Spots: Gender in Digital Financial Services (DFS)

This four-week course is for banks, microfinance institutions, fintech, NGOs, and policymakers, and regulators who want to understand the barriers women face in adopting DFS and what can be done to address them. No background in gender analysis and/ or financial inclusion is required. This course teaches key analytical tools, such as gender analysis, diffusion analysis and change theory and how to apply these tools to how to detect and remove supply-side blind spots, uncover new market opportunities, and help women adopt DFS. Learners will be able to apply concepts of power, gender, and customer experiences to their projects and institutions. 

$250 USD, financial aid available, certificate for completing course.  

Leave a Comment

Comments on this page are moderated by FinDev Editors. We welcome comments that offer remarks and insights that are relevant to the post. Learn More