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How Women’s World Banking is Pioneering Inclusive Digital Financial Services & Empowerment

a woman with curly short hair in a well lit room smiling. Overlay text reads Fintech For Humans in bright orange with the Ukheshe logo in the bottom right corner of the image

Women's Economic Empowerment by the Women's World Bank

Women’s World Banking’s (WWB)  mission is to put women front and centre in designing and rolling out financial products, services and policies to drive women’s economic empowerment. By promoting the creation of products for women by women, WWB is ensuring that women can find greater freedom through inclusion in mainstream economies.  


However, there is much work to be done to promote a more equitable financial landscape. For example, in 2021, female-founded start-ups in the US secured $6.6 billion in funding. However, this impressive figure accounts for just 2.1% of the total venture capital investment, leaving the majority to male-owned businesses.  


Women’s World Banking drives empowerment by changing the narrative and encouraging more women to become fintech-preneurs, with the goal of growing a more women-centered financial ecosystem that addresses the needs of women. And a women-centered financial ecosystem is not Women’s World Banking’s only ambition, either: It’s to see a more gender-balanced workforce, too. Research conducted by WWB shows a clear correlation between staff, client diversity and return on equity. This has a cascading effect: When organizations hire more women, they attract more women as customers. 


To achieve these goals, WWB provides several platforms to support women’s efforts in finding their rightful place in the global fintech space as developers and users of digital financial services. 


One of these platforms is Women’s World Banking’s Global Network, whose South African members include Tyme Group and Access Bank South Africa. The Global Network helps its more than 70 financial services providers (FSP) members acquire, activate and retain female customers. The Global Network creates capacity-building opportunities by sharing best practices on product and service design to better engage and serve women customers. The Network also offers gender diversity seminars to help women climb the management and C-suite ladders.  


Membership in the Global Network is contingent on the organisation committing to a set of performance principles: 


  • Responsibly serving the under and un-served women’s market  

  • Advancing the role of women in leadership  

  • Innovating in the field of women’s financial inclusion and gender diversity 


The Female Founders Circle seeks to achieve many of the same goals. Launched by Marina Dimova, Global Head of Financial Industry & Network Advocacy at Women’s World Banking, the Female Founders Circle (FFC) is a group of women founders of fintechs. The first members of this group were drawn from the top 10 finalists in 2023’s Fintech Innovation Challenge, a competition WWB held to identify and highlight fintechs working to address the gender gap in financial services.  


One of the key focus areas of the FFC is helping founders capitalize on opportunities for growth, for example, access to professional networks. As part of the Female Founder’s Circle, women leaders meet, exchange ideas and discuss the specific challenges they face as leaders, ultimately helping them grow their businesses. 


Similarly, the Fintech Innovation Challenge offers winners extensive opportunities to grow their enterprises and elevate their brands. Among other prizes, last year’s winners received one-on-one pitch consultation sessions with Women’s World Banking and a fast-tracked application to the Miller Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University, which led to significant mentorship and investment opportunities. 


More recently, Dimova brought the gender perspective to the 2023 Singapore FinTech Festival, the largest fintech event in the world, and elevated the conversation on how to make fintech inclusive. At the festival, she led dynamic conversations on today’s most pressing issues, such as generative AI and the use of data and technology in financial services. She brought a much-needed gender perspective to the discussions and ensured that the needs of women customers are always considered. 


“Sharing best practices and working through our common challenges as women leaders brings us together,” says Dimova. “At Women’s World Banking, we are engaging with the fintech industry in order to advocate for and lead the way towards building a more equitable ecosystem for all, especially women,” she adds. 


Women have come a long way in the creation and usage of digital financial services, but as is the case for women across industries, there is still a long way to go. Women’s World Banking is set to change this, one fintech at a time.  


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