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Promoting Economic Empowerment: BDO’s commitment to inclusive Banking for Women

Women's Tabloid News Desk
Women's Tabloid News Desk

The International Monetary Fund highlights a crucial link between female workforce participation and economic growth, suggesting that emerging markets could see an 8% boost by closing the gender gap. Recognizing this, BDO Unibank Inc (BDO) has integrated the UN Sustainable Development Goals into its sustainability agenda since 2010, prioritizing holistic and sustainable economic development in the Philippines.

Central to BDO’s approach is fostering social and economic inclusion, with a specific focus on expanding access to financial products and services for marginalized segments, particularly women. By making banking more accessible, BDO aims to empower women to actively participate in the financial system, unlocking their untapped potential and contributing to overall economic prosperity.

Leveling the playing field in business

BDO notes an increase in the number of women entrepreneurs who avail of its products to grow their business, particularly for BDO’s community bank, BDO Network Bank (BDONB). In 2022, BDO reported that 66% of its Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) clients for BDONB are women-owned.

Karen Cua, Senior Vice President for BDONB who started and built the MSME business for BDO Unibank’s community banking arm, acknowledges that women still face numerous challenges that hinder them from benefiting fully from their hard work and from being recognized for their contributions to their families and communities. “The challenge for many women entrepreneurs is balancing the demands of work and home. While hustling as entrepreneurs, women typically also need to be home managers, their children’s educators, and financial managers for their households. These roles require different mindsets, energy, and skills. Supporting women in doing these roles can help them achieve more without being unnecessarily and overly burdened.”

Apart from her personal experience, Cua’s interaction with BDONB’s women clients allows her to incorporate a gender perspective in designing and implementing initiatives that allow women to manage their personal finances and their entrepreneurial ventures more effectively. “Promoting financial inclusion in the lens of gender equality is more than just distinguishing women’s financial behavior over men’s and making the necessary products or services that match each. We need to actively remove barriers for women that limit their participation in the financial system. Understanding and countering gender disparities make us more effective in making banking more inclusive and empowering.”

Supporting women in achieving financial independence

BDO strives to comprehend the unique challenges and concerns that women encounter, and tailors its support accordingly. Recognizing the vital roles played not just by women entrepreneurs, but also by overseas Filipina workers (OFWs) and women government employees, BDONB actively assists them in effectively managing their finances.

For OFWs, the Bank offers specialized services aimed at facilitating seamless money transfers, providing investment opportunities, and delivering comprehensive financial planning to optimize their hard-earned income.

Moreover, BDONB extends support to women government employees by providing accessible loan options to cover essential expenses such as medical needs, education, home repairs, as well as for starting or expanding businesses. Notably, as of February 2024, about 77% of BDONB’s loan clients are women.

BDONB’s initiatives underscore its commitment to a holistic approach to banking, with the aim of empowering women from various sectors and socioeconomic backgrounds to attain financial independence and thrive.

Recognizing women’s capacity to lead

BDO’s commitment to women empowerment extends beyond its banking services. The Bank actively promotes diversity and inclusion within the organization by fostering an environment where women can excel. Within BDO, women account for 75% of the total workforce, while 58% comprise senior leadership.

Cua appreciates BDO’s efforts to create a conducive environment for women employees to excel professionally and serve their communities. “BDO gives women like me plenty of opportunities to shine. Building and expanding a new business to support the growth of MSMEs in the Philippines has provided me and many female officers of the Bank a platform to make an impact. I appreciate the responsibilities entrusted and bountiful opportunities provided for BDONB employees, regardless of gender.”

UN Women and United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs both note in the Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals: The Gender Snapshot 2023 study the need to intensify efforts to promote women empowerment in order to achieve Sustainable Development Goals targets. By 2030, it is projected that 340 million women and girls will suffer from extreme poverty due to lack of social protections, support systems, and access to livelihood opportunities.

In support of the United Nations Global Compact principles, BDO continues to implement programs that uphold women’s fundamental rights and recognize their role in reducing poverty and achieving economic growth.

“Apart from continuously expanding our network to make the Bank’s financial products and services accessible to all genders, we promote women leaders and celebrate milestones of women. We continue to find ways to create an inclusive environment where everyone, regardless of gender, can realize their potential and contribute meaningfully to society.” Despite the hurdles, Cua remains motivated to uplift her fellow women through her work in the Bank.

“I hope to inspire women in the workplace as well as women entrepreneurs to believe in themselves. Our achievements show our fellow women what they can do too. I want to show my daughter and other young women that gender does not limit what they can reach.”

In a world where gender equality remains an elusive goal, initiatives like BDO’s inclusive banking program are commendable steps toward leveling the playing field. By recognizing the unique barriers faced by women in accessing financial services and actively working to address them, BDO not only enhances economic opportunities for women but also drives broader societal progress. As businesses increasingly recognize the business case for gender equality, BDO sets a compelling example of how financial institutions can champion women’s empowerment while advancing their own sustainability objectives.

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