Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors
  • Sections
  • About us

The financial sector in Colombia owes a debt to women

If the equality achieved before the law had its correlate in culture and in life, women would not have to struggle daily with gender discrimination in order to be treated equally.

*Columna escrita por Claudia María Tamayo

If the equality achieved before the law had its correlate in culture and in life, we women would not have to be battling daily with gender discrimination to be treated equally. Although we denounce and demand parity, equity and equality, it seems that institutions and society in general only advance with the squeezes we give them: a slow and tedious progress in the materialization of our constitutionally mandated rights.

In addition to the gaps in salaries, access to certain university careers, public and popularly elected positions, among others, it now turns out that women, just because they are women, are granted less credit than men, are lent lower amounts than men, have less insurance and, most seriously, are charged higher interest rates. The financial sector owes women equal access to and use of its products.

In the years 2020 and 2021, a time of pandemic, the growth in access and use of all financial services accelerated, because people and government entities were forced to use the financial system massively for the deposit of subsidies, among other services. According to figures from the Banca de Oportunidades, in 2022 of the 37,024,900 people over 18 years of age, 34.7 million (93.3%) had access to at least one financial product, of these: 29.1 million had at least one active financial product, placing the indicator of use of financial products at 77.2%, with deposit products and savings accounts being the most widely used products; 29.9 million adults had at least one savings account (79.6%) of the country's elderly population at that date. As for credit, 36.2% of the population over 18 years of age had at least one, with credit cards and consumer credit being the most purchased products, followed by microcredit and housing credit.

In the Financial Inclusion Special Report for the first half of 2023, an analysis is made from a gender perspective, concluding that there are gaps that disadvantage women in comparison with men. (Gualtero & Meneses, 2023)These gaps can be observed in insurance, access to credit, loan amounts and rates.

The gap in access to credit by sex in 2022 was 3.9 pp in favor of men, according to the Banca de las Oportunidades report. In the case of the microcredit portfoli although women account for a greater number of loans, the loans granted to us are of lesser value compared to the loans made to men, this gap shows an increasing trend, after having decreased during the pandemic period.

Regarding the cost of credit, the average interest rate weighted by capital balance is higher for us in housing, consumer and microcredit loans, in the latter the gap is higher compared to the other types of portfolio, and in the case of consumer credit there is still an upward trend in the gap. (Gualtero & Meneses, 2023, pág. 5 y 6)

There is no reasonable explanation to support the difference in interest rates against us, since in the risk analysis, the authors found that, for all the credit modalities already mentioned, men presented higher levels of risk; moreover, the portfolio quality indicators, both for delinquency and risk, showed that our portfolio presented a lower loss ratio. (Banca de las Oportunidades, 2022, pág. 123) .

Nor can the fact that we pay higher interest rates be explained by the loan terms, since for the housing and consumer portfolios throughout the period analyzed by the authors, the loan term weighted by principal balance shows a difference of less than one month between men and women. In the microcredit portfolio, they found a longer initial term for loans granted to men of around 6 months, with an average term of 4 years for loans in this portfolio.

The obvious conclusion would be that the term of loans requested by men, being longer than that of women, should have a higher interest rate for them and not for us. The Financial Inclusion Report 2022 concludes that inequalities in the labor market between genders are replicated in the characteristics of loans disbursed to women. (Banca de las Oportunidades, 2022, pág. 123)

Gender gaps make life more difficult for us and this is reflected in the limitations for the development of society. If access to credit strengthens our economic empowerment and facilitates the accumulation and control over our assets, affecting our self-esteem and financial knowledge, which is reflected in the social well-being of our families.We are convinced that women's financial inclusion is a key factor in the development of the financial sector, "such as benefits in consumption patterns for children, reduction of infant mortality, greater agricultural production capacities and longer life expectancy", as stated in the 2022 Financial Inclusion Report, and given that women make up more than half of the Colombian population, it is pertinent to demand an explanation and rectification from the financial sector, especially from private banks, credit establishments where the gaps against us are the greatest. We urge the women's movement to convene financial consumer advocates to formulate strategies to correct these gender gaps.