As part of our ongoing work to improve financial inclusion across gender lines, Digital Frontiers Institute’s brand new Blind Spots: Gender & Digital Financial Services course begins on October 15th. Aimed at combating disappointing adoption and impact rates for digital financial services among women and other marginalised populations, the course will be taught by Professor Kim Wilson, Director of The Fletcher Leadership Program for Financial Inclusion at Tufts University. We asked her to write this short piece on why you should take this new course.
Do you think you might have a blind spot when it comes to large segments of the financial services market? Are you perhaps overlooking whole groups of people who might benefit from good financial services but who lack the necessary physical and social precursors to access them? If so, then you will be as excited as I am to participate in our Blind Spots: Gender and Digital Financial Services course.
Blind Spots was created to sharpen the skills of managers and leaders in fintech companies, digital money providers, development practitioners, donors and regulators. By completing the course, they will be able to better detect and serve markets that are currently hidden from their view.
Julie Zollmann, a researcher known for her detailed and engrossing work in financial diaries is one of my co-instructors on the course. I am particularly looking forward to her lectures on how men and women think about and perform financial tasks differently. By understanding the realities and decision-making processes of ordinary people, we can begin to think about how to tweak services to more directly meet their needs. Julie is also going to show us how algorithms can both help and hinder the impact of our work in attracting and satisfying male and female customers.
Our other co-instructor, Roxani Krystalli has dedicated her research to understanding how invisible hierarchies of power can serve to move large agendas forward while sacrificing the needs of people at the bottom of the hierarchy. She will give us some of the tools we need to uncover a few of the barriers that might limit the effectiveness of our work. Her lectures help us expose areas of power blindness within financial services and our own organizations. By shedding light on the dynamics that now limit our vision, we can learn to lead more powerfully within our organizations and beyond.
I was particularly keen to stretch my own knowledge about gender and power; knowledge that I assumed I already had simply by virtue of being a woman. I quickly learned about how little I actually knew as I researched lectures on literacy, identity and service diffusion. For me the absorption of new knowledge has been immensely gratifying. I hope I can share it as powerfully with you as some excellent writers have shared it with me in their various papers and blog posts.
What I have greatest enthusiasm for is learning from course participants about new practices with the potential to explode old paradigms in digital financial services. My hope is that together we make them available to groups of men and women — poor and not-so poor, stationary and migrating, literate and illiterate — who now go unnoticed and unserved. I think that is the hope of all of us participating in the course.
Professor Kim Wilson is the Director of The Fletcher Leadership Program for Financial Inclusion at Tufts University and runs the Blind Spot: Gender & Digital Financial Services on behalf of the Digital Frontiers Institute. She began her interest in development when she entered the microfinance field in its infancy, after a career in mainstream venture financing. She began as a volunteer, a first step that led her to professional employment as a loan officer, MFI director, and investment fund advisor for both non-profit and for-profit microfinance ventures. She also oversaw the microfinance portfolio of a large international NGO. Her work in microfinance has led her to service in other sectors critical to rural development such as water, agriculture, and education. She is a Senior Fellow at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy’s Council on Emerging Market Enterprises and also at the Feinstein International Center. She graduated from Wellesley College and Simmons Graduate School of Management. She is interested in the financial resilience of households and markets at the base emerging market economies.