Banking

Mind the gap — Is fintech closing the gender gap in access to finance?

Source: Chen et al. (2021).

These fintech products, however, differ greatly in scope. For example, some products tend to complement existing financial services, such as online budgeting and financial planning tools or aggregators, while others tend to substitute for these, such as peer-to-peer payments or digital-only branchless banking. When we examine differences at the respondent-product level for 19 narrowly defined product categories, we find that the gender gap is around 50% smaller for products that complement existing services than for substitutes. Yet, it is present for both types of fintech products.

To check whether traditional gender roles cause men to make more financial decisions and lead to higher adoption rates, we also looked at single adult households. There we found that female-led households were still less likely to use fintech than male-led households. This result suggests that arguments that try to tie the gap to traditional gender roles within households fall short.

However, gender differences in attitudes toward privacy and technology could explain the gap. In the survey, women report being less willing to adopt new applications, such as digital banks, and they are less willing to share their personal data for cheaper offers or lower rates. And more than men, women report that they worry about their security when dealing with companies online. Accounting for these differences in attitudes reduces the gender gap significantly, to around 2.2 pp.

Policy support for equal access

What determines the differences in these attitudes remains an open question. They could be explained by differences in preferences across genders, for example, in risk aversion (Croson and Gneezy 2009), or differences in the costs and benefits that consumers attach to the use of these new products. The differences could also result from gender-based discrimination, for example, if women have had bad previous experiences with financial institutions (Brock and De Haas 2021). Finally, the gap and differences in attitudes could arise from social norms or laws that affect the cost-benefit trade-off differently across genders (Hyland et al. 2020). As factors related to attitudes toward technology and price sensitivity explain a sizable part of the overall gap, future research focusing on the determinants of these factors could be particularly promising in understanding the fintech gender gap.

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What are the implications for public policy that aims to foster financial inclusion? Financial technology alone probably cannot close the gender gap in access to financial services. Instead, the fintech revolution may need the support of targeted policy initiatives. These must take into account differences in attitudes by gender and encourage innovation that fits the needs of all.

The design of these policies will depend on the cause of the gender gap. If differences in adoption rates are based on differences in individual preferences, then the scope for interventions may be limited. Should the gap be the result of discrimination or social norms and laws that disadvantage women, then policy that addresses and remedies these factors could help to promote financial inclusion through innovation and education. Further research can help us to understand the causes of the fintech gender gap and inform the appropriate policies.

References

Brock, J. Michelle and Ralph De Haas (2021), “Discriminatory lending: Evidence from bankers in the lab”, Working Paper.

Chen, Sharon, Sebastian Doerr, Jon Frost, Leonardo Gambacorta and Hyun Song Shin (2021), “The fintech gender gap”, BIS Working Paper no 931, March.

Croson, Rachel and Uri Gneezy (2009), “Gender differences in preferences”, Journal of Economic Literature, vol 47, no 2, pp 448–74.

Demirgüç-Kunt, Asli, Leora Klapper, and Dorothe Singer (2017), “Financial inclusion and inclusive growth: A review of recent empirical evidence”, The World Bank.

Demirgüç-Kunt, Asli, Leora Klapper, Dorothe Singer, Saniya Ansar, and Jake Hess (2018), “The Global Findex Database 2017: Measuring financial inclusion and the fintech revolution”, The World Bank.

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Hyland, Marie, Simeon Djankov, and Pinelopi K. Goldberg (2020), “Gendered laws and women in the workforce”, American Economic Review: Insights, vol 2, no 4, pp 475–90.

Source : blogs.worldbank.org

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