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

Urging the need for gender-aware product design

For low-income women, digital financial inclusion offers an opportunity to upend entrenched gender inequalities by entering spheres from which they have been otherwise excluded. Financial services delivered via mobile phone can bridge the last-mile gap, bringing financial tools and services directly to women where they work and live. However, women are underrepresented customers of digital financial providers and platforms. Well-established impediments such as cost, literacy, and normative barriers prevent low-income women from using such services at the same rate as men. These demand-side constraints, combined with a dearth of sex-disaggregated customer data, leave most fintech firms without a clear picture of women’s wants and needs for digital financial tools. As such, most mass-market tools are not designed with women in mind.

This brief examines design principles employed by two fintechs working in Sub-Saharan Africa. It shows the potential of gender-aware design, and how to design for specific needs and constraints of women, while accounting for the norms that define their lives. These two examples provide insights into why intentionally focusing on women can bring benefits to this largely untapped market and how fintechs can design products that meet women’s needs.

About this Publication

By Julia Arnold