In various social contexts, discussions about financial products rarely involve women, and while this can be interpreted as a symptom of the deeply rooted patriarchal trope that finance is the strength of men, there is another level. Around the world, financial products have never been designed with the needs of women in mind. As more women enter the labor market and make significant strides toward financial independence, their involvement in financial matters remains challenging. The unavailability of needs-based products and the apathy so far shown by financial institutions in bridging this gap is one of the main reasons for this scenario.
Interestingly, the lack of financial products that work for women is not only a problem for women, whose financial inclusion remains difficult, but also a pain point for financial institutions that have not taken care to make their offerings women-appropriate. As more women become financially self-employed, women are the largest untapped market for players in the financial services industry.
The development of financial products for women has to leave the superficial route of peeing existing products and then presenting them as products for women. This is because the gender pay gap is likely to persist despite the increasing entry of women into the labor force and, second, women’s earning paths will always be hampered by career breaks that they may have to take to look after their children or family members. These uncertainties and difficulties justify specific financial products for women that offer them the flexibility and security to master these phases. Therefore, women-first financial products need to be redesigned from the ground up to be relevant and easily accessible to women from all regions and all levels of the socio-economic ladder.
The silver lining is that many financial institutions are beginning to recognize the opportunities this neglected population has to grow their businesses. There has been ongoing talk and some are making real efforts to formulate gender equitable financial products, rather than just looking at women from the typical corporate social responsibility perspective. From insurance products for women to bank accounts for women in the countryside to retail investment products, it understands the impact women-friendly products can have on the bottom line of financial institutions.
Another way financial services providers can catalyze women’s participation in personal finance is to facilitate conversation and knowledge sharing on financial issues through easy-to-understand and accessible online communities, support groups, and sources of information. Social constructs have prevented women from having a say in financial matters for eons, and they continue to be prevented from having a say in financial matters. By providing alternative spaces for women that are unhindered from raising their awareness, financial institutions can inspire them to begin their financial journey independently.
Preeti Zende, the founder of Apna Dhan Financial Services, said, “The post-pandemic era has seen an increase in female investors in the Indian market. This upward move is a positive sign of empowerment for women, especially in the money management area. As the contribution of women to the economy increases day by day, this gender is now influencing the country’s economic growth. For this reason, financial institutions also view female investors as an important segment in the retail investment space. Various financial education programs are conducted for female investors to help them understand various financial products that they can use to achieve their financial goals. “
S9 Financial Planners Urmila Singh says, “From sports to construction companies, women have a proven track record in a variety of sectors. When I look at these success stories, I believe that women can participate in the decision-making of their financial goals and make their own financial decisions. You just need the right knowledge and some guidance. As more women begin to make financial decisions on their own, this will normalize in society and this in turn will encourage more women to be financially savvy. “
The central theses:
– Financial service providers should set up a transparent feedback mechanism so that they are aware of the needs of their female customers.
– Small female investors should strive to keep themselves updated on the latest offers in financial products and services so that they do not have to invest in products that do not suit them.
Various financial education programs are conducted for female investors to help them understand various financial products that they can use to achieve their financial goals.
– As more women begin to make financial decisions on their own, this will normalize in society and this in turn will encourage more women to be financially savvy.
This article is part of the HT Friday Finance series published in partnership with the Aditya Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund.