Breaking the Gender Bias in Finance
Thursday, Apr 07, 2022

Breaking the Gender Bias in Finance

Toronto Centre joined the global community in celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD) by commemorating women’s achievements, reflecting on progress made and advocating for women’s equality. The panel discussed how financial inclusion helps combat bias and break the barriers to gender equality and the role of financial authorities in supporting positive change. Read the biographies here.

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Elsie Addo Awadzi

Second Deputy Governor, Bank of Ghana


Irene Espinosa Cantellano

Deputy Governor, Bank of Mexico



Jennifer Long

Program Director, Toronto Centre



Opening automation:    You're listening to a Toronto Centre podcast. Welcome the goal of TC Podcasts is to spread the knowledge and accumulated experience of global leaders, experts, and world-renowned specialists in financial supervision and regulation. In each episode, we'll delve into some of today's most pressing issues as it relates to financial supervision and regulation; the financial crisis, climate change, financial inclusion, FinTech, and much more. Enjoy this episode.

Babak: Hello everyone. Welcome to the International Women's Day conversation on breaking the gender bias in finance. I am Babak Abbaszadeh, CEO of Toronto Centre. I was delighted to know this morning that more than 460 people from 54 countries have registered for this event, ranging all the way from Albania, Zimbabwe, many letters in between, the U.S., the UK, and countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. So welcome. Before we start though, I would like to take a moment to support the people of Ukraine.

We continue to be amazed by their resiliency and heroism. The vast majority of the more than 2 million people that have fled Ukraine are women and children. The organization UN Women has called for solidarity with the women of Ukraine, who before the war were already burdened by the pandemic in one of Europe's poorest economies and are now in a catastrophic position after the invasion, one in which they could be more vulnerable to violence, abuse, and exploitation. Doing our part, Toronto Centre is committed to supporting our colleagues at the National Bank of Ukraine. Please visit their website and check out their concrete request on how you can help the Ukrainian resistance. Thank you.

Since its establishment in 1998, Toronto Centre has trained more than 16,000 financial authorities from 190 jurisdictions to build more stable and inclusive financial systems. Access to finance is crucial to women's empowerment, and women play an integral role in building strong and inclusive financial systems. Women's ability to save, borrow, and control their own money and insure themselves and their assets is vital to their empowerment and poverty reduction, especially in developing countries. Unfortunately, almost 1 billion women worldwide do not have access to formal financial services. And they are the majority of the unbanked people.

The pandemic, of course, has also exacerbated inequalities. Technological innovations, such as digital payments have great potential for expanding financial services to excluded women in poor remote areas. However, the promise that FinTech holds for advancing gender equality will not happen on its own. Many stakeholders, including financial supervisors and regulators, have a key role to play. That's why since 2015, Toronto Centre has organized scores of international events and courses on the intersection of gender equality and financial supervision. We have also produced important publications, such as our Gender-Aware Supervision toolkit, which is a free resource for all.

Today, our distinguished speakers will discuss how to promote sustainable growth, ensure consumer protection and break the bias in women's access to financial services. They are Irene Espinosa-Cantellano, Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Mexico. Elsie Addo Awadzi, Second Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Ghana, and a member of Toronto Centre's banking advisory board. This session is moderated by Jennifer Long, a distinguished former UK financial supervisor with international experience. She's also a Toronto Centre program leader.

Jennifer is also the author of the Gender-Aware Supervision toolkit for supervisors that I mentioned earlier. You have received their bio. Also, would like to thank my staff, Patricia Vargas, Casey Edmonds, and Judy Shin, who worked so hard behind the scenes to make this event happen. Toronto Centre's mission is generously supported by Global Affairs Canada, the Swedish SIDA, the IMF, Jersey Overseas, and the UNCDF. Now, without further ado, I'm going to pass it to Jennifer. Enjoy the session. Thank you.

Jennifer: Thank you, Babak. So, the organizers of International Women's Day have set us a challenge this year and they asked us, how will you rally your community to help forge women's equality and break the bias? So, in this panel, we are going to focus on the distinctive contribution that our community of banks, central banks and supervisors can play in tackling the biases and inequalities that we find in the financial services sector, and on how allies can support supervisors in that effort. In doing so, we are going to on the lived experiences of our eminent panelists as female leaders and their insights into the efforts in their own countries and internationally to address the gender gap in financial services.

And once we've heard some of their thoughts, we really want to hear your questions and comments. So please post your questions in either English or Spanish in the Q&A function, and we'll come to those a bit later. But let's start by thinking about where central banks and supervisors can make a difference. So, Elsie, if we can kick off, according to the 2017 Global Findex, the gender gap in access to finance is still 9% in developing economies. So, can supervisors play a role in reducing this gap?

Elsie: Thank you, Jennifer. Let me say happy International Women's Day, although belatedly to everyone, so the panelists or the participants. And I like to think of March as a woman's month. And therefore, I believe that is still a good idea to celebrate each other while we think of ways in which we can move the needle even closer to where we want to go. Yes, the gender gap in access to finance has persisted at 9%, actually since 2011. And we fear that with the onset of the pandemic and what it's done, particularly to women in terms of economic impact, this number could actually be worse. But we just don't have the hard figures right now. But I feel like regulators and supervisors have a very important role to play, and quite a singular role to play.

First of all, we do license financial services providers. That's where it all starts. We give them a license for a reason. And I find that when you get into supervision, it's actually very difficult sometimes for you to remember the reason why you issue that license. You get caught up in safety and soundness, wanting to make sure that the books are looking good. Wanting to make sure that they're out of trouble, without necessarily thinking of the fact that they actually probably are looking good and they're safe and sound but are actually not intermediating and in ways that are adding value to the economy.

So, the one of the first things that regulates us, and supervisors must do is to ask themselves very hard questions. How do we balance safety and soundness with the real reason why we license these institutions? And I find that whether you're looking at the rules of the game, or you're looking at the approaches by which you actually supervise these institutions, you're going to have to make a conscious effort. And so, the gender mindedness and the gender aware approach is very critical from A to Z across the entire value chain. I find that one of the keyways in which regulators and supervisors can make a practical impact is to start with data.

And it sounds very easy, but it's also one of the most difficult things to do. Getting data in a granular way that allows you to understand how things may be looking good, but not actually looking so good when you dissect it in the ways in which you should. I'll give you an example. In Ghana and in much of the developing world, women tend to be the most entrepreneurs, when you look at micro, small and medium sized businesses. In Ghana, it's put at around 44% of all MSMEs. In some countries it's more. But if you get into a situation where women are lagging behind in access to finance, and we're expecting MSMEs to drive economic growth ... In Ghana, about 70% of our GDP is driven by MSME.

If women don't have access to critical finance, how are they going to be a real contributor to economic development? And so, it's important to dissect the numbers. The loan book looks good. They're providing loans, they're providing access to savings accounts. They're providing insurance services, but how many of these are going to women? How many of these are going to men? It takes a lot for supervisors to invest in infrastructure that makes that possible. And we, for example, have invested in a SupTech that allows us to now collect data at a very granular level when it comes to every product and every service that the bank or other financial issue we regulate is collecting. And then we need to get down to complaints. That's the consumer protection angle. The complaints that are being received on financial service providers.

How many of these are complaints about women, from women versus from men and other demographics, and why? We need to understand that. When it comes to MPLs, one of the easy ways, I believe very firmly in engaging with the service providers. Because when you look at, for example, MPL numbers, how many of these are attributable to women versus men? You will be surprised. Very few of these are attributed to women, and yet banks and other financial institutions continue to think of women as a risky market. And so, data is critical across the value chain in terms of making an impact as a regulator or a supervisor and having some very difficult conversations with our service providers.

And then also the regulatory regime must enable innovation. Babak mentioned technologically based financial services that is really becoming a key game changer for financial inclusion. Women everywhere in most parts of the developing world have access to a mobile phone on which they can get some very critical financial services these days, but that requires a lot to go into an enabling regulatory environment that allows entrants that are traditionally not allowed into the payment’s ecosystem. FinTech, for example, to then play a key role in enabling innovation, in enabling access. Access that is affordable, access that is meaningful, especially to women.

And I find that it takes a lot to calibrate a regulatory regime that allows you to promote safety and soundness in the financial system, as well as inclusion and integrity. And so, these are some of the key things I wanted to talk about. I do have a lot to say on this, but I'll start with this, and I'll continue as we move.

Jennifer: Thank you, Elsie. That's really whetted our appetite to hear a bit more about those different themes that you've unpacked for us there. But really interesting that you mentioned about the need for us to think about and balance different parts of our regulatory objective and how we can build gender in there using this data. And the data is often really unglamorous but important, that we might tend to forget about because it's not that sexy. But as you just mentioned, it's really important. So, we'll come and hear about that a little bit later.

But I'd like to turn to Irene first and think about a different aspect of gender equality, perhaps. So, we think about access to financial services, but as we know, the UN, in their sustainable development goal on gender equality, they also focus on women's participation in leadership and in decision making. And I'm really interested in your perspective on whether that's an area where essential bankers and as financial supervisors, we can make a difference.

Irene: Thank you, Jennifer. And first of all, I also would like to thank for the invitation for sharing this wonderful panel with Elsie and with you, Jennifer. And it's a pleasure to celebrate International Women's Day and have this conversation and share some of our views. So definitely, I think, of course, supervisors and financial authorities, we have a huge role to play in terms of promoting the access of women to leadership and decision-making positions. I think it is clear that in labor market, most of the participation of women is much more on the operational level and then access in going up the ladder is every time narrower.

So, it is really important, as Elsie mentioned, to be active and very aware of consciously promoting these initiatives to promote the access of women to leadership positions. So, in the financial sector, this is even worse. If we talk about supervisors and financial authorities, but also, as you mentioned, in terms of access of women to financial products. So, I think now more than ever supervisors have a key role to play in terms of making decisive actions towards closing the gender gap.

Now, let me share with you. In the case of Mexico, we don't have mandatory quota or any legal enforcement to promote this type of policies. But I think there are very valuable voluntary initiatives that are very good. And also, especially having these spaces and dialogue to share experiences is very important. So, I think the political part of approving legal enforcement is beyond our scope, but of course, we can do a lot. For example, in the case of Mexico, which just recently last year, there was a commitment or memo of understanding between the Ministry of Finance and National Banking Association to voluntarily reduce the gender gap in the financial sector.

So, I think these types of things are affirmative actions that are very good. And it has a specific for goals and it will be a follow up and an evaluation process. So, I think that that shows a very good example of how voluntary schemes can be undertaken. Also, the UN Global Impact, the Mexico Chapter and the UN Women launched this Target Gender Equality, which is a very solid framework for helping companies that are listed in the Mexican Stock Exchange to facilitate and promote the analysis, capacity building and the connection to a global network on gender equality.

So, I think those are very good examples. But of course, it's very small at this point. In Mexico, only 25 companies that are listed in the stock exchange have signed up for this program. So, if you think about an economy and a country of the size of Mexico, this is really very, very little, and we still have a lot to go on. So let me now go to the Banco de México experience. Can you imagine that I stepped into Banco de México in 2018, and I had the honor to be the first woman on the board. And I had the honor because it was me, but on the other side, I really regret that almost 100 years after the creation of the central bank, we just were starting to have women in the board.

So, this is really amazing being in the 21st Century and starting the conversation. And mainly the conversation when my appointment was like, "Wow, this is the first woman." And it's like, there is a lot more to talk instead of just talking about being the first woman. But this really gave me the opportunity to promote that with my colleagues and within the bank this awareness and this huge task to be a central bank that is keen on labor equality and non-discrimination in general.

So since then, we have been building a whole framework with some very important pieces to promote gender equality. And I think we have to lead by example. And this is something that we have taken very seriously. The board did endorse a public commitment to labor equality and non-discrimination as an institutional strategic objective. This was something that had not happened before. And we started with a top-down perspective to really make a change in the culture and in the mentality in the bank. I think in the Mexican culture, there is this hierarchical approach. So, starting by a commitment from the board of governors, I think this was a very good start to make it happen.

And then part of this whole framework was to create a committee. So, on one side, there was this commitment and with a top-down perspective, but on the other hand, the board also created a committee which is inclusive, in which all of the administrative areas of the bank are involved and are participating and are represented. So, I think once you have the commitment, it is very important to have an action plan. We have an action plan with milestones, with key performance indicators and accountability. I think those four elements, the action plan, the milestones, the KPI, and also accountability mechanisms are key for things to happen.

So now what I can also share is that we also took an evaluation of an external third party, and we were evaluated by Economic Dividends for Gender Equality, EDGE. And we received the first level of certification in assess, but just a couple of weeks ago, we were re-evaluated, and we reached the second level, which is called move. And we share that with only 88 organizations in the world and only four in Mexico. So, we were the first central bank to be certified by EDGE, and I think there is a lot of progress, and we are now at this point. Thank you very much.

Jennifer: So, congratulations on the change, not only for your appointment as the first female board member, but also on the change that you've helped to bring about within the central bank. And that is a really great example of not only the fact that we can make a difference in theory, but also that it's happening in practice. And just making the connection back to some of the points that Elsie was talking about, a really interesting thing that we've seen over the last couple of years is an increasing amount of research, which shows the benefits in the financial sector of having women and gender balanced boards and having a pipeline of staff in the senior management level to succeed them and to join those ranks.

And we have seen also supervisory authorities starting to do what Elsie was describing. Actually, bringing that thinking to bear in their scrutiny of firms and the composition of firms, regulated firms' boards, and senior management teams, and looking to see whether they have a gender balance and initiatives to sustain that gender balance on their board. So really inspiring to hear some real progress being made there in Mexico. So, I want to turn back to Elsie and also just ask for your reflections. You gave us a really great list of things where we could make impact. I guess the challenge we might face if we are in an authority starting to try and do something about that is it's quite a long shopping list and where do I start? So, what would you see as some of the key first steps that an authority could take to set in train some of the initiatives that you were talking about there?

Elsie: Well, first of all, just congratulations to Irene. I happen to be the second woman appointed ever as deputy governor of the bank of Ghana, after 65 years. And I'd like to add that it took 20 something years after the first one for me to get appointed. And from some of the things that Irene has said, it just shows you the power that we bring to the table when women are in positions of influence. And as Jennifer was beginning to say, there are many things that we probably are not able to do formally, but there's also a lot of informal power and influence that we can wield. And for me, that's one of the key reasons that I believe in pushing this agenda as much as possible. But what are some of the low hanging fruits, Jennifer?

So, every supervisory authority has rules that they enforce. For example, when it comes to rules that have to do with the fit and proper tests that bank boards or key management personnel are subjected to, these are already there. In many jurisdictions, you have defined anything saying, well, there's got to be a quota for women or not. But a supervisor, it requires training, and it can be that we give training to supervisors working in our institutions so that they have a gender lens when they're looking at fit and proper tests.

If you get a board full of men, frankly, what kind of governance are you practicing in today's day and age? And so, the supervisor must be trained to ask very difficult questions, very pertinent questions and say, "Well, what's going on? Why are all these men on the boards? Where are the women on your board? When it comes to key management personnel, they need to be asking those questions as well. And one thing we're beginning to see is that the work environments are not working for many women, especially as they move up the ladder. So, you're seeing a lot of turnovers. And when you look at the numbers, you see more women leave banks and other financial institutions, especially as they start building their families, raising children, they can't keep up with late hours, they can't keep up with targets.

You need to come back with so much money, with new accounts every month. That means going out for dinner or drinks with someone to get a corporate account. So, you're finding many women getting out. And ultimately, these also affect the safety and soundness of these institutions. So, it comes down to the business model and how supervisors can begin to have conversations with financial institutions about, how do you change your business models in a way that is responsive to gender, not for the sake of women per se, but for the sake of the institution and for the sake of the ecosystem? And so that's one very key thing that I think we can do.

Also, as Irene said, we have launched a sustainable banking framework, which we actually partnered with the Bankers Association to launch. And so, banks are required to comply on a voluntary basis. And so, it's complied or explain, but somehow all the banks in Ghana have signed off and their CEOs have signed a pact to say, "We're going along with these ESG principles," that clearly include a principle on gender equity, not only in the bank's internal operations, but also in their dealings with the market. And therefore, in provision of savings accounts and loan accounts and all of that, as well as a clear principle on financial and inclusion as well. But we haven't stopped there. We have developed a reporting template that requires them to report to us on a quarterly basis. And we're going to soon be publishing these results.

And so, banks will then have to explain to the public, why are we not doing so well on gender equity, and all of that. So that's one easy way. We didn't have to go to parliament or anything for this. This is something we came up with. And because of the approach we adopted, it was very easy for the banks themselves to see the business case in it. One of the other things we've done as a regulator, in addition to creating an enabling regulatory environment is to also make sure that the infrastructure that we put in place to support the credit market is enabling of access to finance for women. And so very simple things like making sure there's a credit bureau system in place, a credit reference bureau system.

We know that traditionally, women are good borrowers. And when they borrow, they're likely to pay back their loans. If you have a credit bureau system that keeps track of borrowing behavior, very quickly, these women are going to build a good credit history. Now, more and more women, especially those in the micro and small business sector are borrowing on their phones, for example. These are small loans whose credit scoring algorithms tended not to be linked to the more formal and traditional credit bureau system. And so, we began to find ways of bridging the two, because what was happening was that the woman was paying back a loan every day from a mobile money operator partnering with a bank or savings and loans company. But that system was different from the credit reporting system that assisted for big loans.

And so, while she was building a credit history here, she was not going to take advantage of the credit bureau system if she wanted a bigger loan from a bank, for example. And so, we've had to find ways of bridging those two systems so that the quick credit scoring systems that are being driven by FinTech’s for micro and small loans are integrated with a bigger credit bureau reporting database so that women are able to migrate from micro loans and small loans to some bigger loans as their businesses grow. And then we also launched a collateral registry a few years ago that accepts registration of collateral on both immovable and movable assets.

This is a game changer for women because most financial institutions wouldn't give out a loan without collateral. And most of the collateral they had insisted on previously was landed property, a piece of land or a house. Women hardly had that. And so, by creating a piece of infrastructure that allows women to borrow, allows banks and other lenders to accept movables, but in a way that protects their interest, then promoted more access to credit for women. And we're able to track the numbers there as well, how many more women are getting in loans every year versus how many more men. And so that's also been very helpful.

And then we were using a lot of our moral suasion. I personally talking with bank CEOs and chairs about the need to provide specific products for the women market. And the women market is not this one homogenous market. It's got many pieces to it. So, taking the time, again, using data to understand the dynamics of the women market. It's a big market. And making sure that there's an ample supply of effective products and services for each segment of that market. And the moral suasion goes a long way. It's something that as supervisors and regulators, we should not underestimate. Once you set the expectation, they follow. They know totally what it is you're expecting of them. It's not written in any rule book, but they respond. And so that's quite encouraging, I find. Thank you.

Jennifer: Elsie, that's really helpful. And you've given us, again, a huge amount of food for thought there. Maybe just a bit of good news again for colleagues in our audience who might be listening to all these initiatives that you've mentioned and thinking about, well, how do I start to do that? Precisely, some of the measures that you talked about, we included in the Toronto Centre Gender-Aware Supervision toolkit that Babak was mentioning earlier. So, for example, for supervision authorities that want to start taking steps that you've talked about, thinking about how to build in a consideration of the composition of a board, whether you've got the right gender balance fitness and propriety, some tools for supervisors to use in doing that.

But also, I think you've given us there a very powerful illustration of what supervisors, again, can start to do once they've understood from using the data that they need to think in a deliberate way about whether the markets are working for women or not. And again, I'm interested then thinking about, Irene, who's been through this challenge, I guess also of getting an institution in a market to start to think about the specific position of women, and what we might need to do to change that. What are you seeing as the current challenges for women in Mexico as we come out of the pandemic, and we think about what we want to do next in terms of enhancing gender equality in the financial sector?

Irene: Thank you, Jennifer. I think this is a key question for us as supervisors and authorities. In the case of Mexico, I think it is important to mention there is really very, very low access to financial services. And especially for women. So, there are huge challenges that women are facing. First of all, going back to what Elsie was talking about is the provision of formal products and services that best suit women's needs. We have very standard and very classic financial instruments. And I think there are clear reasons why women are underserved. For example, the issue of collaterals and also of the specific needs of the payment schemes of women in terms of the borrowing.

So tailoring products specific for women is one of the huge challenges. And commercial banks are really huge elephants. So, to move them to this very innovative scheme is sometimes also very, very difficult. Now, another huge challenge is the gap in economic and financial skills between men and women. There is really a very high attrition of girls from basic education. So, this really leads to women to a lack of capacities in terms of financial and economic decisions. And of course, these hinders their access to well paid jobs, and they are much more in the informal sector, which really will affect their potential wealth.        

Now, another huge challenge is migration and connectivity. There are many rural areas and very far areas which are under pressure because of the migration of men. And so many women stay there with their children, but there are no services of connectivity. So as long as there is no connectivity, it doesn't matter if they are women, they are alone in their towns or so on. It is very difficult to bring in some financial services. And I guess that also in Ghana, but in general, in the developing world, we have a problem with identification documents of people. A study in 2017 estimated that a trillion of people around the world were still struggling to prove their identity.

And if at least 44% of women in Mexico do not have an ID document. So, this is really a huge barrier for them to access. And of course, what Elsie was also talking about, there are stereotypes in which women bear most of the care responsibilities of children and also of elderly or of sick people. And also, the secondary role in decision making in the households really limits the capacity of women to have some assets over their active and economic life. So, I think these are huge challenges, but of course, after the pandemic, we have a huge opportunity also to really build back and to have an inclusive and sustainable economic and financial scheme for growth.

And we have also to be innovative. So, for example, I think that social and gender bonds are very potent and very strong instrument to promote gender inclusion in the financial service. And also, in Mexico, last year, there was an agricultural trust fund that issued this gender bond. And they leveraged $150 million U.S. It had four times demand. And the conditions were very, very good. So, I think there is appetite for these types of instruments, mainly because they are very well rated, because women are very good at paying back and so on. And so, we have to be very aware and start promoting the culture of business with a gender perspective.

Jennifer: Thank you, Irene. So, I want to come to Elsie and follow up on some of those thoughts in a moment. But just a reminder before I do that, that we're going to be taking questions from our audience in a moment. There are some already appearing, but if you have one, now's the time to put it in the Q&A function so that we can feed it in. But Elsie, before we do that, I just wanted to come to you. And what we heard there from Irene I think is about, we have both challenges, obviously at the moment, huge challenges, but also there are opportunities to start to do things differently.

But also, that, I guess as supervisory authorities, we can't do everything by ourselves, but we're fortunate that we have many stakeholders and allies out there that are looking to help us and the support of international organizations. And I'm really interested in your perspective on what those international organizations and how other allies can do to help us as supervisory authorities capitalize on the opportunities in the period ahead.

Elsie: Right. Thank you. So, this is a big one, and things are changing, but traditionally, if you took, say the IMF and the standard setting bodies, and the Basel Committee and all of that, it was all about safety and soundness and stability. And so, there wasn't much thought to inclusion. And sometimes the policy trade offs with guidance on how to manage those trade offs. But things have changed. Things are changing very fast. So, we're finding the IMF talk about gender. We're finding the Basel Committee talk about inclusion and trade offs, and all of that stuff. We're finding the Financial Stability Institute talk about inclusion, the BIS talk about inclusion.

And all of them are providing fora like for conversations to be had by all stakeholder groups, and experience is shared so that there is some convergence towards the idea that inclusion has become a necessary part of a regulator in a supervisor's work. So that's been very helpful. More needs to be done in terms of guidance. And that is also happening. For example, we in Ghana and I think Mexico as well, we are part of the Basel Consultative Group that is helping to work out things like how do you calibrate proportionality in setting up rules or in adopting supervisory approaches in a way that allows you to meet your multiple policy objectives, including inclusion and even gender specific inclusion?

And so that work has started. It will be good to get a lot more of that. I must say that the Toronto Centre has been very great in doing that as well. It took an early interest in promoting gender as a key issue in supervision. And that was quite bold, because lots of people are talking about it, and it's ... The fringes, like when you want to be nice and good, you can touch on that from time to time. But the Toronto Centre is mainstream in that, and it's not just talking about it, but it's actually raising a cadre of supervisors that are beginning to get gender aware and learn tools to incorporate in the way they do their work.

So, for example, I think it's called the Toronto Centre Women's Leadership Program. I've spoken at that program before, encouraging attendees of the program for Sub-Saharan Africa. That is customized to train women in supervisory roles in central banks and the like, in terms of how they can use their power and privilege as individuals to make a change in promoting gender awareness in supervision. So, I think that's fantastic. The Women's World Banking partnering with Alliance for Financial Inclusion and Oxford University also have a fantastic program called the Leadership and Diversity Program also aimed at training women in supervisory organizations and regulatory organizations to incorporate gender as a key aspect of their supervisory work.

So, I think all of these are working great. The Alliance for Financial Inclusion has the Gender Inclusive Finance Committee, which I happen to chair, which really provides thought leadership across the hundred-member network of AFI in terms of really, how do you take practical steps? A lot of the things we've been talking about today. How do you make that practical and how do you get results out of that? So that work is going on and obviously more needs to be done. More needs to be encouraged. Thank you.

Jennifer: That's really helpful. And I'm taking a theme here from what you're saying, Elsie, that these different bodies are now at the stage of moving to more action, not just the talk, which is important, but also the action, and that concept of mainstreaming, of building gender into what we are doing day to day, which is really helpful. But I've been reflecting as well on some of the comments and questions that we've been receiving from our audiences as they've been listening to you. And it's really interesting. I guess there's the technical type questions, and then there's perhaps the more personal type questions.

And we had a comment about the fact that it's really inspirational to listen to you as women leaders for people that might aspire to be that one day themselves. And before we come to some of the technical questions, which I will do in a moment, I wondered, Irene, if you might have some reflections to share about things that have helped you on your path to becoming a senior leader in the financial industry and tips that you would give to colleagues who hope to be in your shoes one day in the future.

Irene: Thank you. I think it would be very ambitious to talk about advice, but I can of course share my experience. I think for me, it has been key to have ... I have had only one-woman boss, and my male bosses have been very, very supportive of me, of giving me every time more responsibilities. But I think this really doesn't come free. It's not only because of they are really good persons, but it's also because you need to have a hard work, to be very transparent, to have good communication, to speak up to say what you really think, what you really aspire.

Women tend not to have this very strategic mindset. And it really took me a long time to be, I wouldn't say strategic, but to raise my hand and say, "I would like to go to this position. And I'm interested in that. And if there is an opportunity, I would love to be supported by you for that position." And I think that was really for me, a turning point in terms of really understanding that you have to be confident and that you have to work hard, but you have also to have very good communication and let other peoples know what you are thinking and aspiring.

Jennifer: Thank you. I'm writing notes here, Irene. I should remember that advice myself, but I'm also interested in hearing from Elsie about experiences that she would like to pass on and encourage to people that might want to, again, become a deputy governor or a governor one day.

Elsie: Thank you so much. And I share very much in all of what Irene has said. Those would be my own experiences as well. But just to add that I think often as women, we need to make a very conscious effort to believe in ourselves. We have grown up with all sorts of biases even against ourselves. We ourselves have been biased about what we can do and what we cannot do, because we haven't seen faces. We haven't seen a lot of women represented in the areas that we may have dreamt about. And so really reminding ourselves that we're enough. We've got everything that it takes.

What is left then, as she said, is to have a plan. Have your dreams and have a plan. And it's totally okay to dream about being the governor, being the president of the country, being everything. But just don't stop there. You've got to actually actively inquire about what does it take to get there? Not only in terms of academic qualifications, but also experience and be flexible because you're going to need a whole wide range of skills and experiences to be able to get there.

And so, wherever you are, make the most of it because you never know where that's going to take in future. I always say that. And then the men are going to be some of your greatest allies. So don't forget about them, but also build relationships with other women. It's often said that women can't work together. I don't buy that. Of course, you can't expect everyone just to be there for you. You have to actively cultivate relationships, but it's very helpful to get mentoring relationships and coaching relationships. Find a mentor, find a coach.

Find someone and ask, how did you get there? How did you deal with balancing work with family? How did you deal with a boss who didn't want to give you opportunities? How did you manage that in a way that was positive? So, you've got to do the work. You've got to invest in the relationships and keep your eye on the ball. And one last thing is it's not going to be easy. People look at people like Irene and I and think, oh, they arrived. It's easy for them. And they're quite often surprised when I tell them that there's a whole different level of battles that you have to fight when you get to this level.

So, there are battles at every stage, but you have to keep pushing yourself. Don't take things personal. Be clear about where you want to go, and choose how you engage with the world, but do that knowing who you are and know what you're capable of doing and continue to invest in yourself so that you are as competitive as they come. Thank you.

Jennifer: Thank you. And that's so interesting echoing what Irene was saying earlier in a slightly different context, but about how changes that you've made within the bank about having a plan. Decide what you want to achieve and then have a plan for getting there and draw on your allies to do it. So really thoughtful advice there. Thank you. You mentioned there, Elsie that life isn't simple once you get to the top. So, with that in mind, I'm going to ask you about some of the other challenges that we are facing now, and other women are facing now and what we can do about them.

Again, so we've had some questions here that are reflecting on the potential for there to be a digital gap for women, and the danger that ... And Irene was touching on this earlier that as we move into this digital era, women get left behind. And the question that Julia has asked us is about, what responsibility do we have as supervisors to ensure that banks and other institutions bring women with them into the digital age? Is that something that we see as part of our role? How might we go about that? So again, just to give you a really small and easy problem to address, Elsie.

Elsie: That's actually a big problem because the research will tell you that first of all, women are less likely to have access to a mobile phone with internet connectivity compared to a man. So, there's already a gender gap in access to finance. And then you also have a further gap as you look at the whole ecosystem for these more innovative types of financial services. So, the idea is how do we get more phones to more women in every corner, and in areas where they don't even have basic internet connectivity or don't have energy. They're not on the national grid. So, they cannot even charge a phone if they had a phone.

So those are very practical questions. And then also the fact that women tend ... That we're already dealing with a financial literacy problem, but then you do have a digital literacy problem. I was reading some numbers from the GSMA a few days ago that said women are usually less likely wanting to learn how to use a new tool on their phone compared to men. And so, with all of these new apps and new technology driven services and products, how are we going to get women to also understand how to use these products?

And so, what do we do as supervisors? We need to continue the engagement with the banks and FinTech and all these in the ecosystem. The product regulation angle is a very strong angle to come from, very practically. We have to approve of new products and services coming from banks, in partnership with FinTech. And that is always a good place for you to start. How is this going to address these already existing gaps? And what efforts are you going to make as a service provider to address these gaps so we can achieve some equity?

And so, kind of conversation is helpful. We, ourselves, as a regulatory authority also have a financial literacy program. And then market conduct supervision, which also promotes consumer protection and transparency in pricing, and making sure that customers are treated right. All of these are opportunities that already exist. We just have to have more of a gender cap on to ensure that we're not just blind as to the peculiar needs of women in these areas. So, I'll add those. And let me just say one point. I see a question about the IFC doing a lot to promote gender equity.

I failed to mention the IFC as one of the international organizations helping. They're doing tremendous work. They were, for example, involved in helping us design our sustainable banking principles that explicitly means gender equity as a principle that banks would apply. And many other things they've done for us, including in setting up our collateral registry, in setting up our credit bureau system. And so, they've been quite consistent over the years in supporting us, and I needed to have mentioned them. It's hard to mention everyone, but the IFC certainly deserves mention. And so, I'll stop there. Thank you.

Jennifer: Thank you. So again, a huge amount of food for thought. I don't know. Irene, is there anything on the digital context that you'd like to add from the Mexican perspective in terms of the roles that our authorities can play of supporting women to make progress here?

Irene: Yes, of course. I think the Central Bank of Mexico is at the same time the unique central bank, but it's also an advisor to the federal government. So, it is our duty also to bring heads up to the federal government where we see there are some conditions, and structural issues that are on their side that could benefit for the sound development of the financial sector. So, maintaining a very open, clear, and transparent dialogue on the intersection of responsibilities, I think that's very important. And we also have to talk very widely with the federal government on these bigger picture issues.

And then on the other hand, I think one of the very good tools for promoting also this connectivity and digital inclusion is the framework of ESG. So, I think that we can also be a very important player in promoting ESG principles so that they can assure that all of these ... Also, digital inclusion might sometimes not be as good as we think. So, once we put the filter of ESG criteria, then we will have the assurance that they are going to comply and to really benefit for the good of women, but also of other underserved groups of society.

Jennifer: Thank you. So, we are nearly at the ... Sorry, go ahead, Elsie.

Elsie: Just something quickly to support what she said. So central banks or regulators typically have very limited mandates. And much as we might want to push the boundaries of those mandates as much as we can, and we should, we often have to engage other stakeholders. But I think we also have a lot of convening power, which we need to always keep in mind and use to the max and bring together other stakeholders. And what I keep saying is that in Ghana, we have a gender ministry. We have many other ministries that have something to do with this, the communications ministry, all of that.

They don't necessarily look at things from a gender-inclusive finance standpoint. And so, it is our duty then to convene fora and bring to bear our unique perspectives that help everyone work together towards the same goals. Because sometimes they're working very hard in their own places, but the outcomes are counterproductive because we're not drawing attention to all of the various aspects that we need to draw attention to. Thanks.

Jennifer: So that's a great note, I think for us to finish on. It echoes a comment that we've had in the chat that we can rise by lifting each other, and working with our stakeholders to achieve some improvements in this area. We've reached the end of our session. And I hope that whether you are a supervisor or an ally, you feel empowered to take your own next steps in breaking the bias in finance. Thank you to our esteemed panellists, our interpreters, and our audience for attending and submitting such thoughtful questions. Toronto Centre would like to thank our founders and funders for their support and wish you all a very good day.