Meet the women leading the way to an inclusive future — part four

Part of Accion’s series highlighting women working in financial inclusion

At Accion, we’re proud to have a diverse team leading the charge as we work to tackle the problem of financial exclusion around the world.

To highlight some of the women working behind the scenes to build a more inclusive and prosperous world, we’re releasing a blog series on the women of Accion and our partners.

Here are a few of the leaders we’re proud to work with:

Maria Alejandra Gonzalez, Head of Growth, Tienda Pago

In her role at Tienda Pago, Maria Alejandra Gonzalez makes it her mission to improve small retailers’ lives through innovative financial solutions in Mexico and Peru. She has seen firsthand how access to financial services can provide social mobility and opportunities. “Fintech for inclusion has allowed me to combine my two passions: creating solutions centered on a deep understanding of users’ needs and context, and truly impacting peoples’ quality of life,” says Maria Alejandra. This is true at Tienda Pago, where she works on designing and delivering products and experiences that make it easier for shop owners to keep their shelves stocked and support their families. It’s not always easy to make a lasting impact in your career, but Maria Alejandra offers up a three-step plan to get started: “Identify what type of problem you want to help solve, find a team that is equally passionate about solving it, and get to it!”

Sonja Kelly, Director of Research, The Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion

Sonja Kelly was inspired to make finance work better for low-income people by her first job after college. While traveling the world showcasing the work of microfinance to donors and investors, Sonja was moved by the care that these financial institutions had for their customers. Several jobs and one Ph.D. later, Sonja says, “I’m still driven by this desire to improve the ability of financial institutions to make products work better for clients — bettering their lives.” Working on financial health at the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion has given her a renewed focus on how financial products affect customers’ lives. She wants to make sure people can be more resilient and able to take advantage of opportunities. She believes anyone can join her in building a financially inclusive world if they play to their strengths. “Make sure you bring something to the table,” says Sonja. “We need thoughtful global citizens, yes, but we also need people who understand risk modeling or complex data analysis or crafting a business case. Developing your expertise will help you to succeed beyond the limits of optimism and enthusiasm.”

Peace Osangir, COO, Kopo Kopo

“Every day you are presented with opportunities to make a difference. Every hurdle that you encounter is a call to step up and be counted,” says Peace Osangir. For women who want to make an impact, she recommends embracing each challenge: “use it as an inspiration to develop practical solutions from your unique perspective as a woman.” As Chief Operating Officer of Kopo Kopo, she knows all about challenges and impact. Kopo Kopo makes it easier for small businesses to accept mobile money from customers to purchase goods and services in Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda. Peace initially stumbled into the fintech for inclusion space through her work in big data analytics. She gained an appreciation for financial inclusion because she saw the power of data and technology to serve the unbanked and underbanked populations in Kenya and Tanzania. And she realized that once people were economically empowered, they could build a better future for themselves, their communities, and even their countries. Understanding this potential inspired Peace to seek more opportunities that would go beyond financial inclusion at an individual level to economic inclusion at a business level. The effects of her work at Kopo Kopo inspire her to keep pushing forward: “The success stories that I continue to hear every day from our customers give me the assurance that I am making a difference in my small sphere of influence and continue to motivate me to innovate in this space.”

Victoria White, Managing Director, Global Advisory Solutions at Accion

Victoria White first became familiar with the barriers women face in accessing financial services during a grad school internship with the US State Department in Benin. She spent a good part of that summer talking to women business owners in Cotonou, which opened her eyes to the innovative models that could help serve people who had no access to formal financial services. That experience was pivotal to Victoria, stimulating an interest in microcredit and its potential to provide opportunity to families and communities, which ultimately led her to her work with Accion. Today, she serves as a member of Accion’s senior management team and holds responsibility for overseeing our advisory support to our partners throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America. She also serves as a board director for a number of these partner institutions. For women who strive to be leaders in financial inclusion, Victoria says, “go big now. Don’t be afraid to take risks to make a difference in whatever area you find your passion.” She also stresses the importance of understanding your strengths and finding the right fit for you. “Impact can be made in so many different ways. What I find so stimulating about the financial inclusion industry today is that it draws from so many different areas of expertise,” she says. “The industry is open to so many different entry points, so many perspectives, and so many paths. Be intentional in charting your own, unique path. There are so many different combinations of passion, talent, capability that are needed to build a better world, through financial services and beyond.”

Read part one, part two, and part three to learn about more inspiring women who are breaking barriers and building a more inclusive financial system.

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