India needs more women finance professionals | Business Standard Others

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In the new economy, home is also a workspace. Because a household is a microcosm of an economy, women have had the training ground to build intuitive understanding of saving, investing and liquidity

Shinjini Kumar, co-founder of

I am looking for women. More specifically, women fund managers, traders, bankers, insurers, regulators, and financial intermediaries — the full stack. What do we have? The top is famous, the middle is thin and the pipeline is embarrassing. I am looking at advertisements. The women are making dreams of their departed husbands into reality, buying gold, or running a “small” business.

Event-preview of the new Paytm campaign introducing the QR code: A bike pulls over at a gas station and the young man takes out his phone to scan the code. The girl on pillion pouts. The boy says, “Selfie nahin le raha silly, paytm kar raha hoon”. I ask the agency why they did not have the girl pull out the phone and the guy pout. I learnt that actually the model is a bike rider. But, I guess they went with the pouting girl as stereotypes work. Most financial services firms and the user-interface expect the respondent to be male with a family that has a woman and child(ren).

This disassociation of women from formal finance is largely for two reasons. One, most of the time they do not own property. Even when they do, it is movable property that quickly moves to the man, when need be. Two, in the traditional division of work and money, women got home, children, care-giving — all at home and all for free, while men got the shops, farms, offices, factories, business establishments. This privileging of paid work outside over free work at home is such that when the same work of cooking or care-giving is done outside the home, men are quite happy to do it; because guess what, it is paid!

In the new economy, home is also a workspace. Hyperlocal, community-based businesses or teaching someone in the United States from your home in Uttarakhand bring paid work home and obviously, women are going with the flow —creating, building, freelancing, while managing home, children, hobbies, alternative lifestyles. Because a household is a microcosm of an economy, they have had the training ground to build intuitive understanding of saving, investing, and liquidity. It is not hard to see the need for their financial lives to evolve in tandem with their changing work lives.

But, how has the financial system responded? With continuing fear, mistrust and suspicion. Largely, women are not considered creditworthy. As chic a product as Apple Card just got called out for assigning lower risk limits to women with equal income and credit score as their husbands. In the wealth management business, women are stereotyped as risk-averse. Be careful when selling to women. Make sure the men have signed up the decision. Check with the man of the house. That is the subliminal message.

But, guess what? More women will manage wealth in future than in the past. The definition of work itself is set to change. That will put demands on financial services to disrupt itself and reorient to a whole different client. Not just women, more people will have lives that women have lived — asset-light and without long tenor careers with surety of income for their “working life”. More parents will teach their sons to cook and their daughters to invest, because when they do find that partner, they are unlikely to glide into that expected role of free food provider or accountant!

But is the supply side up to it? Or, will we continue the “pink and shrint” or the patronising financial inclusion where the design, ethos or management are divorced from the user experience? That is why I am looking for women. And men, who will help bend the curve. For, isn’t that the phrase of our times!

The writer is co-founder of

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