Women’s World Banking’s research has shown that women are inherent savers, managing to save on average 10 to 15 percent of their earnings despite low and often unpredictable incomes. However, low-income women often face barriers to accessing a safe place to save due to mobility and time constraints as well as low levels of financial literacy. They are forced to save in less reliable ways: at home in a drawer or under a mattress, by buying excess stock for their businesses or through a neighborhood savings club.
The introduction of digital financial services can address these savings barriers by offering accessibility, convenience, privacy and security through new channels such as mobile phones and retail agents. These tools represent a huge opportunity to close the gender gap in financial inclusion and provide a solution for women that addresses their needs.
Many providers—both mobile network operators (MNOs) and banks—assume it is only a matter of time before more women adopt digital financial services without questioning whether existing services can better meet women’s unique needs. These providers are not considering the important distinction between simply accessing phones and actually using digital services. Consequently, despite the emergence of several promising approaches, a comprehensive digital financial service model that effectively serves low-income women at scale has yet to be developed.