Banking Frontiers has done a special story on women’s leadership & initiatives taken by the BFSI organisations to improve the status of women in the workplace & society. The cover story is divided into 6 parts (i) finance literacy (ii) money management (iii) attractive career options (iv) leadership initiatives (v) older v/s younger women (vi) mental health:
Part 1: Bridging the cultural gap with literacy
Plugging the gaps in financial literacy among the women today:
Unlike their mothers or aunts, most women today are proficient in various aspects of financial planning including budgeting, saving, understanding financial services and products, debt management, and investment. This can be chiefly attributed to increasing levels of education as well as income-generating employment.
As per Sumitha Nandan, Executive Director, Manappuram Finance, key financial decisions at the household level still sadly remain male-dominated though women members are also earning. “However, it is a constant process of evolution and will be a sign of society’s progress when more and more women, especially those at the bottom of the pyramid, attain financial independence and literacy. Most Indian households are not very encouraging towards the women in their homes to be aware and take charge of financial matters.”
Priti Rathi Gupta, Founder of LXME, shares her perspective: “Today, women are earning and contributing to their families financially, and the traditional notion of the man being the bread earner and managing the family money is no more relevant. Women must and gradually are starting to participate in this money conversation.”
Priti added that the incumbent financial services ecosystem is largely male dominated and hence focused on men. ‘Men manage money much better’ – this deep-rooted orientation has created a huge barrier in the minds of women that money management and investing are complicated concepts that only a male brain can decipher.
Gaps in Financial Literacy
Kamayani Aniruddh Nagar, CEO – Wealth at Bajaj Capital avers that it is important to address the gaps in financial literacy among individuals, especially women. Financial independence is crucial for everyone, and it’s essential to understand how to manage your finances, irrespective of your age or gender.
She asserts: “I want to emphasize that it is a common myth that someone else should handle our finances for us. While it may seem convenient to rely on a spouse or parent, it’s important to take ownership of our financial well-being.”
Priti believes that women are born money managers. When armed with the right attributes of being risk-aware, disciplined, making informed decisions, and staying calm under stress, women can go from managing home budgets to smart investors. She explains: “When women begin to invest and grow their money, they carry the potential to bring about a societal change, because they begin by investing back into their community and children. The future of financial freedom for women is the onset of an evolutionary change, and it begins with a simple adaptation of money management, as a life skill.”
Procrastination is another issue that often hinders financial progress. It is easy to put off managing the finances for later, especially when someone has other pressing matters to attend to. However, delaying financial planning can have serious consequences in the long run, and it’s crucial to prioritize it.
Kamayani shares: “We must overcome this barrier and empower ourselves to be financially independent. As women, we have the right to pursue our interests and secure our financial futures. It’s time to break free from the notion of sacrificing everything for others and take control of our own lives.”
In recent times, big strides have been made in terms of financial inclusion, especially after the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana was launched in 2014. Sumitha shares more details: “According to data from the Ministry of Finance, nearly 20% of women in India still do not have access to a bank account. In other words, one in every five women! This is a big gap that we need to close, going forward.”
Kamayani views that women must equip themselves with the necessary knowledge to make informed decisions and avoid being taken advantage of. Another common misconception is that finance is complicated to understand.
She further added: “I want to assure everyone that managing personal finance is not rocket science. It’s about being efficient with our funds, and we can learn how to do that with a little bit of effort and education.”
Part 2: Self & Experimental methods for money management
CEOs discuss the different learning methods adopted by their companies:
Manappuram Finance has no separate stream of education specifically for women. The NBFC has women’s self-help groups (SHGs) that work towards empowering women. The NBFC has a subsidiary – Asirvad – which is among the largest microfinance companies in the country. Asirvad lends money to groups of women in rural and semi-urban areas, especially in the under-banked corners of the country, to help them fulfil their dreams. Manappuram also helps its women employees to become part of the digital revolution that is sweeping the country.
SHGs help to promote financial literacy and financial independence among women. Such groups offer a safe and supportive environment for women to learn from each other and build networks that can help them achieve their financial goals.
Kamayani explains the impact: “I have seen first-hand how these groups can be effective in spreading financial literacy and helping women become more financially independent. By sharing experiences and insights, women can learn about the importance of financial planning, saving, and investing, and gain the confidence and skills they need to take control of their financial futures.”
Experiential learning is another great way to promote financial literacy. By providing women with hands-on opportunities to learn about managing their finances, they can better understand how to make informed decisions and take proactive steps toward achieving their goals. Leaders agreed that even small amounts of savings can add up over time and have a significant impact on their financial well-being.
Kamayani says: “At Bajaj Capital, we are committed to promoting financial literacy among women. We are currently working on creating a team of women who have taken a career break or are unable to devote time to their work currently to form a financial literacy self-help group. Through this initiative, we hope to provide women with the tools and resources they need to achieve financial independence and build a network of empowered women who can inspire and support each other.”
Encouraging women to have money conversations is one of the most important steps towards breaking the barrier between women and money management followed by rich relevant content on demystifying financial jargon. LXME has an easy-to-use and hassle-free investment platform with financial planning products like mutual funds and gold that are well-suited for women’s financial goals, risk appetite, and investment tenure.
Priti says: “At the heart of LXME is a safe and trusted community of women who actively ask, learn, and share about money decisions that make them confident about gaining more control of their finances and learning from each other as they progress on their financial journeys.”
“The palatable and relatable educational content on money management is curated for women in the form of blog posts, videos, courses, learning modules, workshops, and bootcamps that demystify the world of finance,” she added.
Part 3: Leveraging learning & feedback
BFSI companies are taking special learning and development initiatives for creating future women leaders:
LXME is a fast-growing robust community-led financial management, planning, and education platform for women. It is backed and run by a talented, skilled, and passionate team of women. The company has adopted entrepreneurial culture in the organization that drives people to brainstorm new ideas and come up with innovative solutions.
Priti says: “We are constantly learning and sharing knowledge that keeps us ahead of the curve and helps in the growth of the team. We aim to inspire a wave of financially fearless women to actively manage their money and achieve their dreams.”
Manappuram Finance provides emphasis on continuous learning, both in-house as well as at centers of excellence. The company has tie-ups with premier institutes and female employees are encouraged to enroll in courses in law, finance, and management.
Bajaj Capital has an inclusive environment for all team members, especially women. The company has a unique challenge that women face in the workplace, and the company is taking steps to address them.
Kamayani says: “We are offering flexible working hours that can be tailored to individual needs. We also provide the option for team members to work from home if required, as well as the provision for half-day work each month. Additionally, we have established a mentoring network for women in middle management who are looking for fast-track growth opportunities.”
Feedback for a better workforce
Bajaj Capital believes in creating an environment that supports all team members, regardless of their gender or background, so the company can build a stronger and more successful company. Kamayani provides the details: “We recognize that there is always more work to be done, and we remain humble in our approach to addressing these challenges.”
Bajaj Capital is constantly seeking feedback from its team members and looking for new ways to support and empower women in the workplace. By working together, company is building a brighter and more equitable future for its employees.
Part 4: Compliance, operations & treasury attract women
CXOs discuss the areas in which women progressing the fastest:
Over the decades, women have been making their mark in all fields and the financial sector is no exception. It has been seen women are excelling in areas like financial planning, savings, and investments including equity. Sumitha says: “A large part of the credit for this should go to women collectives such as SHGs and the growing economic status of women.”
Better Money Managers
As per Priti, it is statistically proven that women make for better money managers than men, thanks to some inherent qualities like discipline, goal focussed, and a balanced approach toward risk. With Virtual connection now more acceptable than ever before, women can use these skills even more actively. “I see women participating actively in money/wealth managers, Fund managers, Technology and Product,” she added.
Kamayani observed that certain roles such as compliance, operations, and treasury management tends to attract more women due to their predictable hours and desk-oriented work environment. She reveals: “I understand that these observations may be influenced by societal expectations and gender biases that can hold women back from exploring new opportunities or taking on more challenging roles.”
Openness & Humility
All the women leaders agreed regarding creating a supportive and inclusive environment that empowers all employees, regardless of their gender or background, to pursue their goals and achieve success.
Kamayani says: “As a leader, I am committed to promoting diversity and inclusivity in my company and creating opportunities for all employees to grow and develop their skills. I believe that by addressing these challenges and creating a culture of openness and humility, we can build a stronger and more successful company that values and supports all its employees.”
Part 5: Mental health issues higher for women
Women leaders discuss mental health issues at the workplace:
Leaders agreed that women face more mental health issues in the workplace than men and the primary reason for this is the misogynistic mindset still prevalent in society. Besides, finding a work-life balance is much harder for women compared for men. The burden of managing the house and raising children falls squarely on the woman’s shoulders, irrespective of whether she is a homemaker or a working woman. Sumitha believes: “Sustained efforts should continue in creating awareness about this inequality and POSH policy should be implemented at all workplaces in letter and spirit.”
Women leaders believed that mental health issues affect everyone, and it is not limited to the workplace. And they think these issues are on the rise, and it is because people are becoming more aware of them and giving them the attention, they deserve.
Priti believes that millennials are most at risk of mental health issues. Life is far more exhausting and consuming for them. A lot of them live alone or without family in larger cities. The pressure of work, not having a support system around, and finally the consumption of social media and its aspirations add to the problems. I believe both men and women are equally at risk, but women fare poorer as they find it hard to get an outlet.
Kamayani says: “At the end of the day, our happiness and peace of mind are essential to our overall well-being. I do not believe that there is a significant difference in the prevalence of mental health issues between genders.”
Youngsters open for mental health discussions
Women may tend to be more self-critical and place greater pressure on themselves to conform to societal norms, which can contribute to anxiety. Kamayani believes that younger generations, regardless of gender, are more open and comfortable with discussing mental health and seeking solutions.
As a society, we have made great strides in reducing the stigma surrounding mental health issues, and we must continue to make progress in this area.
Kamayani adds: “I have found it easier to discuss the need for guidance with my children than with my parents. Overall, as a company, we strive to create a supportive and inclusive environment for all our employees, and we encourage our clients to prioritize their mental well-being as well.”
Part 6: Today’s woman is bolder & more ambitious
Experts shared the distinction between older & younger women:
Young women in India are more resilient and aware of their goals and aspirations. A major part of the earlier generations believed in putting their money in traditional instruments to have a sense of security against their capital. They never worried about not beating inflation. In the contemporary world, young women are realizing the importance that their money must not only fetch them returns to fulfil their financial goals but also supports their standard of living.
At LXME, Priti teaches never put all eggs in one basket. One must also attune a strategy to plan their investments to ensure that they’re exploring all the options available and are picking the right set of instruments that cater to their needs.
“We are building their emergency fund and getting adequate insurance covers to protect themselves and their loved ones against any contingency,” she adds.
Gone are the days when women were thought to be bashful and reserved. Today’s women are without a doubt bolder than the previous generations. Sumitha shares: “Remember, a 2-wheeler maker revolutionized mobility of women across India with a punchline that asks: ‘Why should boys have all the fun?’ That in my view symbolizes the spirit of the times. Today’s woman is ambitious, resilient, and ready to take risks.”
Kamayani thinks that the young women of today are impressive and inspiring. They have access to more opportunities and choices than previous generations and are vocal about their opinions and aspirations. While it is true that they may have had certain advantages and protections that earlier generations did not, it is important to recognize that progress has been made in creating a more equal society.
She adds: “I acknowledge that this increased comfort and opportunity may present its own set of challenges. Some young women may struggle with resilience and toughness in the face of adversity. This is not a trait unique to women, but rather a human trait that can affect anyone, regardless of gender. Therefore, as a society, we must continue to support and empower women to develop the skills they need to succeed in all areas of life. We should celebrate the progress that has been made while recognizing the work that still needs to be done.”