With many years of experience working for startups founded by others, I decided to start my own business recently with three other co-founders. Delivering a product that would be inclusive and fair for all was a key goal because we believe that, as with any good universal financial product or service, women are just as likely to be seeking a solution as men. In fact it seemed to me that some entrepreneurs forget that we females represent, more or less, half of the consumer market.
We therefore built Oval on the premise that financial awareness and trust can help women bridge the gap to independence.
Reportedly, 70% of women in India suffer domestic violence, yet financial dependence keeps them tied to their abusers. Furthermore, in the developing world, families of young women tend to neglect their daughter's education, as they do not believe in their right to financial freedom. In areas of rural India for example, only one girl in a hundred reaches 12th grade.
But we do not need to look as far as India, as little as just over half of women in the 4th most populous EU state - Italy - are active in the workforce. Many of the rest are not in education, employment or training thus being cut out from an opportunity to financial independence. Looking at the UK, less than a quarter of corporate board rooms have female representation. Even when they do, those women can expect to receive 20% less pay than their male colleagues.
But beyond eradicating the obvious injustice, there are also many benefits to society as-a-whole from greater female financial independence. Here are just a few:
Research suggests that women reinvest 90% of earned income to benefit their families, compared to only 30-40% for a man
Independent women become popular role models, empowering others to stand up to violence
Children of working mothers develop a better understanding of the value of money, with a greater potential for self sufficiency as adults
Child mortality rate research shows that for every one additional year of education for women of reproductive age, child deaths fall by 9.5%
More women working means more women earning, boosting national economies and welfare programs through increased spending and tax revenue
Closing the gender pay gap could deliver an earnings increase of $2 trillion in OECD countries alone.
To promote greater financial independence, access to savings and investment schemes should be encouraged, not only workplace and wage equality. Worldwide, just 47% of women can count on access to formal financial institutions and saving mechanisms, compared to 55% of men. The gap only widens in developing economies such as in the Middle East and North Africa.
This is why, at Oval Money we firmly believe that the simple and accessible financial tools we offer can change the game in favour of equality in today’s society by helping women to better understand their spending habits and routinely set money aside for the future.
As women already feel empowered when engaging with social media, we decided to link saving behaviours with digital social expression. We recently launched a new feature that integrates Oval Money with leading social networks, tieing savings to social media activity, beginning with Facebook. By activating a ‘Step’, our users can now automatically transfer a chosen sum to their digital savings wallet each and every time they post on Facebook.
This is an important first step. But as a fintech entrepreneur, I believe there is still so much more to do and I am excited by the idea that many more women are actively getting involved in bringing about positive change in the financial industry.
An excellent initiative of Innovate Finance, the Women in Fintech Powerlist celebrates the incredible women leading this change. I look forward to continuing to work with and innovate alongside such inspiring women.