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3 Inspirational Initiatives Empowering Women Financially Around the World

This Tuesday, women across the country will celebrate (and bemoan the need for) Equal Pay Day. First launched in 1996, the day was designed as a powerful awareness campaign for wage inequality.

Since its inception, the celebration has always fallen on a Tuesday in April. This is no accident. The timing represents how much longer a woman must work into the new year to earn the same amount as a man the previous year. To match an annual salary, she needs to work four more months: April. To match weekly wages, she needs to work two more days: Tuesday.

As a nation, we’ve made progress over the past several decades. But still today, women are paid only 80 percent of men’s wages, and pay equality isn’t projected to happen until 2059.

That’s a long time to wait, and with technology we can accelerate change in the US and around the world. Here are three Solver teams taking action today. On Equal Pay Day, we honor their work.

Destácame: Giving Women Access to Credit

In the most recent Global Findex report, the World Bank reports that the financial gender gap has not significantly narrowed. Around the world, only 58 percent of women have a bank account, compared to 65 percent of men. Expanding financial inclusion is a prerequisite for economic opportunity.

Destácame, an alternative credit scoring platform, has found a way to do that. The platform enables owners of micro, small, and medium enterprises to prove their creditworthiness for free by gathering data on their payment behavior from credit-like services such as utilities, telecoms, and suppliers.

By considering details like payment history, creditworthiness moves beyond how much someone earns, where they live, or existing collaterals or banking history—greatly expanding financial inclusion. Destácame believes it can turn most of Latin America’s unbanked population into bankable clients, empowering them to take hold of their financial future.

Soko: Lifting Women Artisans Out of Poverty

The artisan craft industry is the second largest employer in the developing world, and the majority of artisans are women. But many, limited to sales in their local communities, do not earn enough to support their families and grow their businesses.

To tackle this challenge, Soko developed an innovative supply chain model—a mobile-enabled “virtual factory” that connects artisans in Africa with global consumers. Through Soko’s system, artisans have their products sold by international stores and online retailers, receive purchase orders, manage delivery and inventory, and get paid directly.

The technology provides equal access to opportunity for these artisans, getting them reasonable pay (on average, Soko’s supply chain increases income 5 times over), and ultimately, lifting them out of poverty.

TruTrade: Empowering Women Farmers Across Africa

Small farmers in Africa—women in particular—see most of the value of their crop disappear when they sell it to middleman traders who bring it to market. TruTrade, a smart digital trading platform, is changing this by transforming the farmer-trader relationship.

The platform provides trade finance and allows for payment, transparency, and traceability—so farmers can understand how much each step of the trade costs. TruTrade’s model incentivizes traders to pay top dollar for crops, putting more money directly into farmers’ pockets right away. In fact, in 2015, the TruTrade crop price was 16 percent higher than traditional trading price.

With a reliable route to market and fair prices for produce, this system increases income and creates opportunity in rural Africa.

Each of these three solutions empowers women in an innovative way. At Solve, we believe there are more great ideas out there—starting with yours. We’re looking for solutions to our four new 2018 Challenges: (1) Coastal Communities, (2) Work of the Future, (3) Teachers and Educators, and (4) Frontlines of Health. Learn how to apply today.

Ursula M. Burns and Hala Hanna congratulate the selected Women and Technology Solver teams at the Solve Challenge Finals in New York City, September 17, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Stuart / MIT Solve)

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