Social Norms Change for Women’s Financial Inclusion

Date Published: 
Jul 2017
Burjorjee, D., El-Zoghbi, M. & Meyers, L.

Taking social norms into consideration when designing women’s financial inclusion initiatives

Social norms refer to the rules and accompanying behaviors that govern social behavior, perceptions, and conduct. Such norms have profound impact on financial inclusion, such as limiting women’s ability to work outside the home, engage with male agents, or even own a phone. Mechanisms to address these kinds of barriers can take different approaches and should be embedded into organizational programs. Workarounds for social norms is one important mechanism. For example, alternative data for credit scoring could be used in markets where women lack access to land for collateral because of norms regarding land ownership and use. Approaches that are transformational can be long-lasting and impactful. This might include, for example, changing the notion that women should not have access to mobile phones because their household roles do not require them to be informed and connected. 

This Brief is intended for funders, practitioners, and policy makers who are committed to women’s financial inclusion and economic empowerment. It introduces basic concepts of social norms change theory, reviews current practices regarding gendered approaches to financial inclusion, and explores how lessons learned from other sectors that are embedding norms changes in their design can be applied to women’s financial inclusion programming.