Article: IWD 2023: Mastercard highlights the power of financial literacy and leadership in women's empowerment

Employee Assistance Programs

IWD 2023: Mastercard highlights the power of financial literacy and leadership in women's empowerment

Since most employees (54%) consider financial management as a major stress factor, financial education programs organised by businesses could help in assisting them. This also directly benefits the company through increased focus, better morale, lower health costs, and increased productivity, says Mastercard’s Kirti Kama.
IWD 2023: Mastercard highlights the power of financial literacy and leadership in women's empowerment

Gone are the days when money matters were thought to be the subject matter of men. Today, women believe in earning their own money and being in charge of their own finances. However, financial literacy, which is the ability to understand and manage one's budget, investments, saving, and debts, is still a challenge for most women. While female financial literacy has been found to be an essential tool in breaking the cycle of poverty and improving economic well-being, there are minimal efforts made to remedy this issue. 

Studies have shown that when women are financially literate, they are more likely to make informed decisions about their money, save more, and invest in their future. This indicates that being aware of their own money helps women to navigate the complex financial landscape, including credit cards, loans, mortgages, and insurance. As International Women’s Day is just around the corner and discussion around empowerment has taken centre stage, we can’t ignore one of the most significant topics that uplift women – money. 

And who better than Mastercard, the global pioneer in payment innovation and technology, to talk about financial literacy and the role leadership play in attaining the same. Hence, People Matters exclusively spoke to Kirti Kama, Senior Vice President, Business Operations at Mastercard to understand the importance of financial education for girls and women and how leaders can assist in attaining it, especially in workplaces. 

Excerpts from the interview: 

How can women leaders assist in bridging the gender pay gap in India?

As women leaders, it is our responsibility to pave the way for the young workforce who looks up to us. Both men and women leaders must understand the importance of equity in the workplace and become proponents and allies to drive change both within the organisation and beyond. A great way to do this is through internal business resource groups where collective work by women leaders and employees could have the power to change policies. Leaders should also look for opportunities and inspire peers in their network as well as engage and support organizations, industry bodies or non-profits that are working towards building better gender diversity and pay equity. 

At Mastercard, women earn $1.00 for every $1.00 earned by men, globally. But it is important to also strive beyond pay equity and build an inclusive and engaging workplace for women. We prioritise recruitment drives with a focus on enhancing gender diversity. Oorja – our DE&I program aims at strengthening the inclusion of women through initiatives like ‘Return to Work’, designed especially for mid-career women professionals with an opportunity to re-enter the workplace. Oorja also includes a host of benefits to foster gender inclusion, such as financial assistance for adoption, surrogacy, fertility treatments, and 16-week leave for new parents and the India Mentorship Program for mid-career women employees with an opportunity to be mentored by senior leaders.

Financial literacy is not common among women in India. How can leaders help women to become financially sound and independent, especially in the workplace? 

To be in control of one’s finances and safeguard one’s future is crucial. A recent study shows that the majority of employees (54%) across India consider financial management as a major stress factor and this is primarily owing to the lack of proper understanding and training around modern financial intelligence. Financial education programs help in assisting employees where they are most needed but also directly benefit the company through increased focus, better morale, increased productivity, and lower health costs.

Women often face the challenge of not being well-versed in the financial parlance which can make them feel intimidated despite being talented enough. Leaders can make a great difference to help them overcome these fears and become more financially literate, through mentorship. Leaders should see it as a responsibility to empower their teams through their learnings and encourage them to leverage resources provided by the organisation. At Mastercard, we strive for the holistic well-being of our people and financial well-being is a critical part of this (besides mental, physical, and social well-being). Mastercard’s Live Well App focus on building great well-being habits and inspires employees to save, spend and invest wisely. Mastercard is also one of the few companies in India that makes a company contribution to employees’ NPS account to encourage long-term saving. Besides, our employee-led business resource group (BRG) -the Women's Leadership Network (WLN) also organises sessions that focus on financial literacy and intelligence for women along with career growth and development. 

Do you believe money can play a significant role in attaining gender equality in India? How? 

Financial inclusion across the globe has been considered a key metric for development and is also an enabler for most sustainable development goals. However, the interlinkages between the gender gap in education lead to a further gap in workforce participation, which eventually leads to an inequality in financial inclusion. Hence, it becomes imperative to adopt a gender-sensitive approach to develop schemes that bring women to the forefront.

Female leaders can serve as role models by raising educational and career aspirations, thus, helping to reduce the gap in workforce participation. It is also essential to design policies that empower women to tread through their professional journeys alongside their personal roles. This will also play a significant role in addressing economic inequalities, empowering women to play a more proactive role in advancing growth and development. 

As per RBI data, only 27% of adults and 24% of women meet the minimum level of financial literacy. However, women are more responsive to financial literacy outreach and when armed with foundational knowledge, financial literacy tools, and small-scale business opportunities, women entrepreneurs can make a remarkable impact on their families and communities. Mastercard has been able to create opportunities for women entrepreneurs across the country through its partnership with the Chambers of Commerce for Rural Women with Mann Deshi Foundation that enabled over 30,000 women entrepreneurs to connect with market access and skills development. Apart from that, our partnership with Project Kirana in collaboration with USAID and ACCESS Development Services has been able to empower close to 3,000 women-led businesses with acumen training.

As we have entered the era of artificial intelligence, do you feel there is a digital gender gap in the world of work? How can we overcome the same?

Mastercard and its employees are committed to building a more inclusive and diverse workforce. Gender diversity in STEM is a critical issue and has a consequential impact on gender diversity in our hiring. According to industry reports the proportion of women in technical roles is only 25-26% and this already poses a gender gap in the available pool of experienced talent to hire from. But we’ve been able to steadily improve gender diversity in our workforce through various inclusive policies, practices, and programs. When it comes to hiring, we have focused on diversity hiring drives and generous incentives for women referrals. We are also nurturing STEM talent in-house, through robust development, upskilling, and mentoring support for existing women-in-tech as well as non-techies to switch to tech roles. 

Besides these, we’re also trying to address the gender gap in STEM education through our signature STEM program - Girls4Tech. The program uses gamified lessons around payment technology like algorithms, encryption, fraud detection, etc. to inspire young girls (8-16 years) to take up STEM education and careers. The curriculum has already been translated into 20 languages, hosted events in 50+ countries, and has been able to reach out to over 3 million girls. In 2020-21, the program reached over 112,482 girls in urban and rural locations across six states in India and we’ve recently extended our commitment to reach an additional 1 lakh female students across the country by 2024.

At this point, we have close to 39% of women contributing to the workforce at Mastercard. However, we are consistently working towards building an even more gender-balanced workforce. 

What is the importance of celebrating International Women’s Day at workplaces? 

We believe that every day is an opportunity to amplify the achievements of the women at our workplace. But designating one day in a year makes for a great reminder every year and serves as an opportunity to review progress, renew commitment, re-energise efforts as well as gather fresh perspectives on the issue of the gender divide. This makes celebrating Women’s Day at the workplace and beyond important. It becomes a platform for both new and existing employees to understand and appreciate the importance of gender equity at work, but also allows them to think about how each one of us can help on these efforts to gradually move towards a world that is truly inclusive for everyone.

On International Women's Day, let's support the financial literacy of women in the workplace to also contribute to the growth of organisations.

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Topics: Employee Assistance Programs, #EmbraceEquity, #PowerWomen

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