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Gender Awareness Crucial to Boosting Women’s Financial Inclusion: IFC/HBL Study

In Cairo:
Riham Mustafa
Phone: + (202) 2461 4230

Islamabad, Pakistan, August 3, 2017—Providing gender awareness training to employees can help banks attract more female depositors, boosting their bottom lines and providing women with crucial access to financial services, says a study released today by IFC and Pakistan’s largest commercial bank, HBL.

The study, Gender Intelligence for Banks – Moving the Needle on Gender Equality, surveyed over 13,000 HBL employees. It examined the differences between employees who had undergone gender awareness training and those who had not. It found that branches whose managers have been trained posted a 10 percent increase in the volume of women’s deposits compared to branches whose managers had not received training.

“Women play a vital role in the country’s economic and social development,” said Nauman Dar, Chief Executive Officer of HBL. “Striving to create a more egalitarian society, HBL is determined to serve an increased number of women clients and become the employer of choice for women in the financial industry.”

According to World Bank estimates, more than 1 billion women either do not use or don’t have access to the financial system. IFC has estimated that in emerging markets, a $300 billion annual gap in financing exists for formal women-owned small and medium businesses.
“Financial inclusion remains a key challenge for women across the world, especially in emerging markets,” said Dimitris Tsitsiragos, IFC’s Vice President of New Business. “Studies show that around 70 percent of women-led small and medium businesses are either unserved or underserved financially. An initiative like this is another step towards increasing women's participation in the economy."

The study is the outcome of a comprehensive gender awareness project that IFC delivered to HBL under its Banking on Women program. The project promotes positive gender awareness, prompts employees to appreciate behavioral differences between men and women, and encourages behavioral change. Training sought to help employees understand the business case for targeting women within the workplace and as customers, and to encourage front-line staff to cater to women.

In Pakistan, the gender gap is significant, with financial inclusion reaching only 6 percent of women, while female participation in the labor force stands at 25 percent. To address this, IFC has invested $225 million and provided advisory services to help HBL increase the number of women depositors, finance women-owned businesses, and boost lending to rural borrowers. IFC has advised HBL, the largest bank in Pakistan, as it rolled out several initiatives. These included encouraging internal diversity, developing a sales focus on women, launching the HBL Nisa brand platform, and undertaking the gender intelligence training program.

About IFC
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets. Working with more than 2,000 businesses worldwide, we use our capital, expertise, and influence to create markets and opportunities in the toughest areas of the world. In FY16, we delivered a record $19 billion in long-term financing for developing countries, leveraging the power of the private sector to help end poverty and boost shared prosperity. For more information, visit

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