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How businesses can drive equal pay by supporting women’s financial inclusion

nternational Equal Pay Day, on 18 September, represents longstanding efforts towards achieving equal pay for work of equal value, regardless of gender.

A critical component of equal pay is financial inclusion – where a person has access and ownership over their own finances.

What is equal pay?  

“Equal pay” means paying men and women the same wages for the same work, or work of equal value.  

The World Economic Forum estimates that on average a woman earns just 63% of what a man in similar work earns [i]. This means that there is still a significant gap between men and women’s earnings.   

What is financial inclusion, and why is it important?  

“Financial inclusion” refers to a person’s ability to access useful, affordable financial products and services that meet their needs [ii]. This means a person being able to access a bank account, insurance or credit that has a reasonable interest rate.  

Financial inclusion brings a person greater economic empowerment and independence over their finances. Equal pay and equal financial inclusion are both needed to achieve gender equality in financial independence. 

The gender gap in financial inclusion 

Women typically have less access to financial products and services, such as bank accounts, than men. This means they face the risk of having less access and control over their own finances.  

72% of men globally have a bank account, compared to 65% of women [iii] 

Being less likely to have a bank account means women are at an immediate disadvantage, with less financial independence. Women are less likely to be able to store and access their wages in a safe, secure way – an obstacle to economic empowerment and financial independence.  

This risk exists alongside the equal pay gap – meaning that even if a woman is receiving the same wage as a man, she is less likely to have full control over those wages.  

This is an ongoing obstacle for any organisation seeking to drive equal pay through their operations and supply chains.  

This gap varies between countries.

It’s crucial to understand where this gap exists within your supply chain, such as the different countries where it is most acute.  

This disparity exists alongside the gender pay gap, and interconnects with other risks that female workers in supply chains are disproportionately exposed to, such as gender-based violence.  

The severity of these risks also varies between industries, such as in the apparel and manufacturing industry, where 80% of workers are female [iv]. In Sedex’s risk assessment tool, this industry in Bangladesh is high-risk (7.5 out of 10) for gender inequality, meaning that women are even more disproportionately disadvantaged.  

Organisations can combine this information to build an in-depth picture of women’s vulnerability in different parts of their supply chain. In a country or sector with significant risks of gender-based violence, a significant gender gap in average wages, and a gender gap in access to bank accounts, women will be particularly disadvantaged and more vulnerable to exploitation.  

For example: 

  • In Pakistan, just 7% of women have their own bank account. In Sedex’s risk assessment tool, Pakistan is “medium risk” for gender discrimination and “high risk” for wages (workers are at high risk of not being paid a living wage) [v].
  • In Algeria, Bangladesh, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan and Turkey, the gender gap in bank account ownership is 25-30 percentage points. In Bangladesh, 65% of men but only 36% of women have bank accounts [vi].

Understanding this risk analysis helps organisations prioritise where to focus their efforts to support women in accessing bank accounts and other financial services, to help them have greater independent control over their wages and finances. 

How businesses can promote women’s financial inclusion 

  • Collect gender-disaggregated data (data separated by gender) from across your supply chain, to help you understand women’s experiences and situations at work. It’s important to know which areas of your supply chain have a majority female workforce, and the country and sector they work in, to assess the risk of gender-based discrimination. 
  • Use a risk assessment tool and data on financial inclusion – such as The World Bank’s data on bank account ownership – to understand the risks to equal financial inclusion in your operations and supply chain, and where the risks are highest. 
  • Review how wages are paid and whether your company can support a shift from cash to faster digital payments across your supply chain. Digital payments can help to promote women’s economic empowerment and financial inclusion [vii].
  • Promote, facilitate and support training for women in financial literacy, financial management, and digital literacy. Digital and mobile-based financial services may be easier for workers to access in some countries. 


[i] Global Gender Gap Report 2021 – see p.14
[ii] The World Bank Financial Inclusion Overview
[iii] The World Bank Global Findex Database
[iv] ILO research
[v] Sedex’s risk assessment tool provides risk scores on a scale of 0-10, where a score of 10 represents highest risk. Pakistan scores 5.8 for gender (female workers are at risk of discrimination and other forms of exploitation in the workplace), and 6.3 for wages (workers are at the highest risk of not being paid a living wage).
[vi] The World Bank Global Findex Database
[vii] See Better Than Cash Alliance