Financial Technology

Melinda Gates wants greater access for women to digital financial tools

“It is a source of frustration that the original target audience for whom Super Rewards was created (women on parental leave or stay at home carers) are slow or reluctant to adopt it – especially when it’s free to join,” says Pascale Helyar-Moray, chief executive of Super Rewards.

“We attribute this to a relatively short-term outlook, where the user’s focus is simply on getting through the next month or few months or year; it’s hard to think too far beyond that.

“The unfortunate reality is that by the time these users realise their super is lacking, it will likely be too late to make any meaningful difference to impact their retirement outcomes.”

Super Rewards is but one of a handful of Australian-based fintech companies that are trying to help women with digital tools to address financial inequalities in wealth and super. Other companies include Super Fierce and Blossom App.

Lack of literacy

The OECD attributes a lack of financial literacy among women globally as being among the key reasons a digital gender divide exists as it often translates to a lack of comfort in using technology and accessing the internet.

“These fintechs are doing Australian women such a great service however a big part is actually getting women to still engage with their money and understand the foundations, which we just aren’t taught unless we seek it out or are fortunate enough to have someone explain it to us,” says Molly Benjamin, the founder of the 55,000-strong network Ladies Finance Club.

“If they don’t understand the basics of their super then they won’t see the great service these companies are doing – you don’t know what you won’t know.”

The other factor that may be holding back progress is a shortage of women developing financial technology solutions.

The proportion of women founding fintechs in Australia sits at only 24 per cent, according to research by Fintech Australia and EY.

One of the biggest challenges that female technology founders have is funding expansion, and that makes marketing to the masses extremely difficult.

‘Poorer representation’

New research by Deloitte for SBE Australia found that despite growing support and attention for women founders in Australia, they receive just 0.7 per cent of private sector funding.

Deloitte Access Economics partner David Rumbens blames embedded gender bias rather than potential investment returns or business fundamentals, as a key reason why female founders are starved of funding.

“What we’re seeing here aligns with gender gaps in the labour market more broadly, not just in entrepreneurship,” he says.

“The gender gap in entrepreneurship widens when moving from the number of founders to the value of funding. This pattern is mirrored in the poorer representation of women at increasing levels of seniority in large organisations and in investment decision-making.

“The fact this pattern exists indicates that the issues occurring in entrepreneurship are not all unique to start-ups, and are reflective of broader gender inequity in the economy and society.”

Arguably, the presentation of gender bias in funding opportunities for female entrepreneurs is a missed opportunity for economic and business growth.

This is surely something that needs to be addressed if we are to better support women in being able to access the digital financial tools designed to eliminate inequalities.

So what can be done to plug the digital gender divide?

  1. We need to encourage a greater uptake of women in financial literacy programs at schools and during key milestones such as early career, career breaks and prior to retirement.
  2. We need greater support for financial technologies that are designed to address gender inequalities.

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