Giving Compass' Take:

• Caren Grown explains that in spite of global efforts to close the financial inclusion gender gap, no headway has been made. She offers possible explanations and next steps for the World Bank.

• How can philanthropy support research to understand why the gap persists? Are there examples of programs that have closed the gap? 

• Learn about opportunities for inclusive fintech in the U.S.

As senior director for gender at the World Bank, Caren Grown is the last person you’d expect to be taken aback by data about the financial gaps between men and women. But, she says, she was “really surprised” by the bank’s latest findings on financial inclusion, released in its Findex report this April, which showed that the gender gap in account ownership hasn’t budged for seven years, despite significant global efforts to close it.

Why is it that we haven’t seen any progress?

Part of [the persistence of the gap] may be because somebody else in the household has an account, and women don’t perceive the need to open one up independently, but I don’t think I really believe that explanation. Another more likely explanation is … if you’re not in the labor force, there are fewer incentives to get an account and if you’re in an informal occupation, it may be harder for a number of reasons. There’s also research from GSMAssociation and other institutions that women have less access to ownership of technology, for instance, a smartphone, or even access to the internet.

You have said that the World Bank is going to use this data to specifically target the closure of both the usage and access gap. 

One set of activities is to work with central banks to gather more disaggregated information on account holders in the financial system. We think that’s really important. We also have a large initiative called the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, which works to help women start and grow small and medium enterprises.

Read the full interview with Caren Grown about the financial inclusion gender gap by Jihii Jolly and Megan Clement at News Deeply.