20 November 2020

Sex-disaggregated data narrows the financial inclusion gender gap

By Dr. Settor Amediku (Co-Chair of FIDWG & Director of Payment Systems, Bank of Ghana) and Taty Azman (Policy Analyst, Policy Program and Regional Initiative, AFI)

Sex-disaggregated data is shaping fiscal and regulatory policies to accelerate financial inclusion for women, build evidence-based financial inclusion policymaking and enable the effective chronicling of steps to address barriers facing women.

Underpinning efforts to drive women’s financial inclusion across the AFI network is the Financial Inclusion Data Working Group (FIDWG), which recently launched a Guideline Note on Sex-Disaggregated Data Templates. This latest publication provides a detailed methodology to segment financial data on access, usage and quality by sex in a systematic and regular manner, offering direction on various elements needed to complete periodic financial data reporting returns or reporting templates.

Data can be generated from financial service providers in four financial subsectors: banks and non-banking financial institutions, digital financial services, insurance companies and pension scheme providers. This new knowledge product also includes a set of sample indicators in the annex that provides possible reporting and dissemination outcomes.

Before diving deep into the data segmentation process, members should perform careful analysis of the data requirements for successful segmentation, including on its characteristics, requirements and modifications. They should also establish a collaborative approach between different parties to agree on reporting changes to guarantee high-quality data collection that is complete, reliable, accurate and timely as this will help members agree with their peers on data indicator framework that are relevant and useful for informed policy framework.

It is also highly recommended that a clear timeframe is set for testing, validating and cleaning any data collected along with a plan for reporting and disseminating key indicators.

Financial institutions are at varying stages of development in terms of collecting sex-disaggregated data. Approximately a third of AFI members are collecting data to identify and highlight barriers to women’s financial inclusion, including on policy, awareness and understanding of available financial service products, or social norms that have historical significance within their communities.

Among those at the forefront of developing a data portal that emphases gender is Ghana. Its central bank has collected sex-disaggregated data on digital finance that has helped shape national policy formulation and implementation.

To ensure the holistic collection of sex-disaggregated data, the Bank of Ghana has gone a step further by introducing a data collection portal that caters for gender-disaggregated data across all financial services and products, known as the online regulatory, analytics and surveillance system. Such developments have strong backing in Ghana, particularly with its statistical service helping government ministries build their capacity for sex-disaggregated data collection and launching a Sustainable Development Goal national reporting platform that will improve access to gender data.

Disaggregated data being collected by the central bank includes registered mobile money accounts, registered agents and the number of beneficiaries of inward remittances, micro savings customers, micro insurance customers and micro investment clients. This valuable information is being used to support policy formulation on gender issues.

At the core of many institutions’ efforts is the AFI Core Set Policy Model, published in 2019 as a set of indicators that guide regulators and policymakers in collecting data on the main dimensions of financial inclusion and developing national policies. This cornerstone publication appeared in its earliest form in 2011 as a core set of financial inclusion indicators, and represented FIDWG’s first tool for guiding quantitative data collection and measurements in the access and usage of financial services.

From an original five indicators covering account volumes and basic access, a further 55 were later added in response to member needs to define the quality of financial inclusion, and additional access, usage and quality indicators focusing on small and medium-sized enterprises, mobile financial services and digital financial services.

Providing further guidance to members, FIDWG produced a toolkit in 2017 that leverages sex-disaggregated data as a first step in measuring women and men’s financial inclusion and identifying opportunities to bridge the gender gap. Key examples from AFI members around the globe, including in Armenia, Malaysia, Palestine, Peru, Senegal and Tanzania, were shared to highlight the types of data being collected and their importance to policymaking in narrowing the financial inclusion gender gap.

The toolkit also mentions other important considerations in designing templates, including proper and tailored definitions and taxonomies agreed between different data reporting institutions in each financial subsector.

These knowledge products reinforce a wider trend that has seen gender inclusive finance increasingly emerge as a focus for many institutions worldwide. Taking note, in 2015, the leaders of the Group of 7 and Group of 20 (G20) emphasized women’s access to financial services and financial education as a global priority, prompting the announcement of several commitments and the launch of Women 20 to promote gender inclusive growth.

For the AFI network, implementing the gender lens is enshrined in the 2016 Denarau Action Plan (DAP), which closely contributes to various United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), namely goal 1 (no poverty) and goal 5 (gender equality). By committing members to halving the financial inclusion gender gap within their jurisdictions by the end of 2021, the DAP led to an increase in demand for greater analytics and tools to disaggregate data to better identify the position of women in financial inclusion efforts.

We encourage our network members to leverage this latest guideline note and the core set policy model to measure and track financial inclusion policies they have implemented. More is to come from FIDWG, and we are excited to venture the road ahead with you!


The Gender Inclusive Finance workstream is partially financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and other partners.

© Alliance for Financial Inclusion 2009-2023