The report, Powering Potential: Increasing Women’s Access to Financial Products and Services, proposes actions to achieve major gains for both gender equality and market returns. By focusing on the financial sector, this report builds upon the approach used in the publication released last year, “Return on Equality,” to scale up the private, public and social sectors’ involvement in advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 5: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”
“By clearing the way for women to become fully engaged as financial actors, we have the opportunity to improve the lives of women and dramatically expand the market for financial products and services,” said Heidi DuBois, Global Head of Philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility at BNY Mellon. “Our hope is that financial services providers will design and market more products and services that fuel women’s economic participation, giving investors more options to invest with a gender-lens.”
Expanding women’s access to financial services and products would be a boost to financial service firms and the global economy. Conservative estimates in the retail banking, investment and insurance sectors show that closing the financial gender gap could:
- Unlock $40 billion in annual global revenue in retail banking product access;
- Unlock $290 billion in annual global revenue in life insurance access; and
- Enable financial services firms to grow their share of $100 billion to $120 billion in annual revenue that women currently contribute to the retail investment market.
According to the report, when women control financial assets, they are often more likely than men to invest in the health, education and well-being of their families, suggesting significant benefits of financial inclusion to society as a whole and future generations.
“Economically empowering women provides an undeniable return on investment: markets grow, women thrive and families and communities are stronger. Closing the gender gap in access to financial products and services is an opportunity and obligation we can’t ignore any longer. If we want a better future, it starts with gender equality,” said Kathy Calvin, President and Chief Executive Officer of the United Nations Foundation.
Women influence or control roughly 25 to 30 percent of global wealth – or more than $20 trillion in assets. However, women still only have 77 percent of the access to fundamental financial services that men do, such as checking and savings; payments; credit, loans and capital; insurance; and investment.
The report reveals that women access and use financial products and services at lower rates than men for three primary reasons: There are fewer products on the market that meet women’s needs; the products that do exist tend not to be effectively marketed or delivered to women; and societal and structural barriers often impede women’s ability to be financial actors.
Actors from across the private, public and social sectors can take actions to overcome barriers to women’s financial equality, including:
Private Sector – Innovate approaches to reach more women customers and steer capital to companies whose products and services promote women’s financial inclusion and empowerment.
Public Sector – Eliminate legal restrictions and private sector discrimination in access to and use of financial products and services, such as housing loans that prevent women’s full engagement as financial actors.
Social Sector – Orchestrate partnerships across sectors toward common goals for women’s financial inclusion; identify and evaluate service firms, products and policies most effective in advancing gender equality.
In addition, the report shows that digital innovations present transformative opportunities for equality, enabling previously excluded populations of women to access financial services.
Achieving the unrealized full social and economic gains of women’s financial access will require long-term commitments from financial institutions, investors, NGOs and governments.
As women around the world continue to exercise their full potential as independent and empowered financial agents, society overall will increasingly see improvements in health and educational outcomes, expansions in entrepreneurship and greater overall financial security – all key ingredients to global economic growth and sustainable development.