Normative Constraints to Women’s Financial Inclusion: What We Know and What We Need to Know

Norms are increasingly recognized as a key constraint to women’s financial inclusion — one that may help explain the persistent gender gaps in bank account and, in some regions, mobile money ownership, as well as the fact that progress toward gender equality is slowing globally. It is time to move away from gender-blind or gender-aware approaches to financial services toward a gender-transformative approach that explicitly creates gender-equal financial systems by embedding pathways for engagement on equal terms.

This paper brings together the evidence of what is known on norms and financial inclusion and uses cases to demonstrate aspects of and approaches to addressing discriminatory norms throughout the financial system. It also highlights many remaining areas for further inquiry on norms and financial services that would enable improved women’s economic empowerment.

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By Julia Arnold, Mayada El-Zoghbi & Alex Kessler