Advans works to promote financial inclusion by providing access to quality financial services to help micro and small entrepreneurs develop their businesses. Its mission of building scale and sustainability is strengthened when the right conditions for self-empowerment of individuals of all genders are in place. Therefore, Advans' commitment to gender inclusion and equity ensure that the values of financial inclusion, economic empowerment, and sustainability are maintained.
This is especially relevant in Pakistan, which is marked by a strong disparity between genders in the labour market. However, progress is underway, as proactive measures are being implemented through gender inclusion policies. As for Advans Pakistan, it is also playing a significant role to foster gender equality.
The state of Pakistan launched the program “Banking on Equality”
The female employment rate in Pakistan was 30.4% in 2021. Despite Pakistan's significant progress in terms of economic growth in recent years, a strong gender imbalance remains in the labour market. Women in Pakistan remain disproportionately under-served by the country’s financial system which is leading to a growing gender gap in financial inclusion. The ratio of women in the financial sector workforce is 12%, and in terms of loans, female borrowers stand for 23% of total borrowers in microfinance. To overcome this situation, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) created “Banking on Equality”, a landmark policy to reduce the gender gap in financial inclusion by bringing a shift towards women friendly business practices in the financial sector. All financial institutions will have to meet the five following targets by 2024:
- Increase female staff to 20%,
- Increase the ratio of women branchless banking agents to 10%,
- Appoint women champion staff at 75% of all bank sales points,
- Impart gender sensitivity training to all staff members to erase implicit gender biases
- Increase the outreach of women-centric products & services, access and usage of accounts, and financing to female entrepreneurs to reach 20 million unique active digital accounts.
Female staff on the rise at Advans
Between 2021 and 2022, the proportion of women employed by Advans Pakistan increased from 6.8% to 8.6%, reaching 45 female employees. Advans Pakistan Microfinance Bank is determined to make progress on the issue of diversity, with an ongoing gender sensitivity training that will end by 2024. Up until now, the training unit conducted 16 Gender Sensitivity sessions with 207 staff, covering the following topics: Gender Empowerment, Traditional Gender Stereotypes, Gender Biasedness, Gender at work place, Banking on Equality Policy, Advans on Banking on Equality Policy and Sexual Harassment : Complaint process.
Dedicated products and training for female clients
The Advans Program included the development of new products and the establishment of new partnerships to increase the financial outreach to women. In 2022, Advans Pakistan conducted 19 financial and digital literacy training sessions, within 11 cities across the Sindh province, accompanying 300 female clients. Network teams animated these sessions focusing on savings, digital, and safety. Early 2023, Advans Pakistan also launched 2 products dedicated to women: a loan and a savings account.
Moreover, loan processes were simplified and digitalized when possible, for easier access to loans, and women influencers and ambassadors were selected to encourage women to launch their projects. With all these efforts, the number of active female accounts increased by more than 200% between 2021 and 2022.
The Women Financial Services Department
In order to pilot both client-oriented and staff-oriented measures, Advans Pakistan created a Women Financial Services Department. To date, this department has already conducted several financial literacy programs for women, gender sensitization trainings, and internal communication campaigns. The department has also already appointed women champions in branches. They support female staff, and accompany female prospects and clients, providing information on female specific products.
“My experience as Head of this Women Financial Services Department has been truly transformative and close to my heart. Being a part of this department has provided me with a platform to not only overcome those obstacles but also make a significant impact on the lives of other women. It has given me a sense of purpose and the ability to make a difference. I am proud to be part of an organization that recognizes the value and potential of women in the financial industry. Through our collective efforts, we are breaking barriers, empowering women, and creating a more inclusive and equitable financial landscape.” Said Tanya Khan, Head of Marketing, Advans Pakistan.
Advans Pakistan is determined to continue delivering its gender inclusion strategy for both its clients and employees.
Stay tuned for more updates on this program!