What is FemFintech and why is it so important for longevity?
Longevity is crucial for a woman’s health and wealth
Isn’t it ironic, like the famous 90s song, that women on average live longer and yet tend to accumulate less wealth? A great percentage of the supercentenarians alive today are women with Kane Tanaka being the oldest verified living person at a cool 118, and the maximum record attributed to Jeanne Calment, who lived to 122.
A longer life unfortunately can have adverse effects on women’s quality of life, as women are also more prone to chronic neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, likely linked to the fact that their rate of aging greatly accelerates during menopause. Cellular aging speeds up by 6 percent according to a study conducted by one of the most famous researchers in the field of longevity, Steve Horvath, professor of human genetics and biostatistics at the University of California.
The prevalence of Alzheimer disease has been estimated to be higher in women than in men (2:1 female/male ratio), with postmenopausal women contributing to over 60% of all affected subjects. A Sex Perspective in Neurodegenerative Diseases
Add to these physical-biological stressors, external ones, such as women in midlife tend to carry the task of caregiving, with the average age of a female caregiver being 49 years old.
“62 percent of women provide more than 20 hours of weekly care compared to 38 percent of men.” The State of Women and Caregiving in 2021
Another barrier to the accumulation of wealth among women is a healthy dose of ageism, which impacts women more adversely than men. In addition, the emphasis on ‘lookism’ puts pressure on women to appear youthful and often trumps their performance when they are evaluated. As a consequence, many women 50+ are pushed to the sidelines and/or pushed out to make room for younger workers.
One cannot point out problems without pointing out solutions, and an argument can be made that longevity (preventive health and regenerative medicine) is not only important but necessary for women to have more opportunities for wealth creation, and to shield them from long years with diseases and no way to pay for their care. Longevity’s immediate potential is providing increased health-span over lifespan. It is not about how long you live, but how long you live healthily.
The field however has a branding problem with its connection to immortality life-extension, and anti-aging, something women these days rightly rebel against as a symbol of the “lookism” they are up against. It is unappealing to those who don’t know if they will have enough money to retire to sell them the 150-year life. It also seems patriarchal when the great majority of the best-known spokespeople for the field are only caucasian, wealthy men tell you this is what we should all be dreaming of. For such a revolutionary field, it is all looking very 1980s.
It is also important to denote that healthy longevity is a step above wellness and the holistic approach to health and that they are not mutually exclusive, but complementary. As much as we would like a chakras alignment to fix all our ailments, and enjoying a session of aromatherapy is great, those won’t be the things that could save us or reverse dementia. Only science can help this.
Many women in midlife to this day feel unheard when it comes to their health, menopause startups and #femtech are only now becoming “hot” as investments. When we explain our mission at MYKIGAI as a community dedicated to educating and making longevity a consumer experience not solely dedicated to quantified-self or biohacking, but about community and experiences, it is still considered a novel concept but more of this is coming our way as “the look of longevity” — public figured looking healthy in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, more people are going to want that, and when women see the potential and start practising longevity as a lifestyle, this is when the industry will truly hit critical mass.
Maybe then, we will also have the last laugh like Jeanne Clemment, the longest living woman who had outlived the man that had done the mortgage reversal scheme for her apartment. In the end, his state had to pay for Jeanne. _Laura Miquini, Longevity Advocate & Founder of MYKIGAI.
Closing the gender gap in wealth ?
According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021, in the past year, the predicted closing of the global gender gap increased from 99.5 years to 135.6 years. The Global Gender Gap Index estimates the evolution of gender-based gaps among four key elements- economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. This gap is tracked over time and published annually by the WEF. It shows that the gender gap has widened during the pandemic and is probably not going away soon.
Economic participation and opportunity are crucial to the financial resilience of women and hence to their economic resilience in late life. Women still do not equate to men in access to credit and bank account ownership. Interestingly, Findex data in 2017 shows that while the total number of bank accounts increased from 2014 to 2017, the gender gap in account ownership remained constant, especially in low-income economies. In those countries, the gender gap in account ownership remained 9%.
Women also exhibit other elements that may lead to economically unfavourable outcomes in late life, either due to gaps in financial education, digital literacy, or risk aversion. The gender gap in account ownership and accessibility to credit is partially driven by the women’s social roles, resulting in the fact that it is more likely for men not only to own the majority of the household’s net worth but also to control the day-to-day finances.
Will Fintech narrow the gender gap in wealth?
Increasing the ability to benefit from the rapidly developing digital world could potentially create a more inclusive environment for women to use Fintech solutions, including personal financial management (PFM), care cost management and online management, and many other financial applications. Encouraging women to use and adopt Fintech tools is key to closing the gender gap in wealth and other gender inequalities, affecting women’s financial resilience in late life.
As the chart above shows, in most countries worldwide, women use Fintech less than their male counterparts. This is true both for countries where the general usage of Fintech is low (as in Spain and France) and in counties where the general use of Fintech is very high (as in China). The measurement of the use of financial technology in this graph is based on the EY Global Fintech Adoption Index (2019), a consumer survey based on 27,103 online interviews with digitally active adults between February and March 2019 in 28 countries.
Country characteristics can explain up to 75% of the gender gap, gender differences in willingness to try a new Fintech, and other individual-level attributes. However, a significant portion of the variability is yet to be fully understood and possibly stems from traditional gender roles and cultural differences that could mediate the remaining gender gap.
Specifically, in contrast to the majority of countries in the world, in India and Peru, the usage of fintech among women is higher compared to their male counterparts. This seems to be the exception and not the rule and could be partly explained by the wide adoption of digital financing tools as well as digital identities aimed at promoting financial inclusion in those countries. In most countries, nonetheless, men use Fintech at much higher rates compared to women.
What is FemFintech? Is FemFintech the solution to the gender gap in account ownership and accessibility to credit?
FemFintech is a Fintech solution explicitly dedicated to solving the gender gap in accumulating wealth and accessibility to credit. New FemFintech solutions are starting to appear in the past couple of years, focusing on women’s specific needs and barriers. The use of Fintech among women in earlier stages of the life course, might lead to better economic outcomes in later life.
Here are three of them:
Lucy is an online banking solution dedicated to women that aims at creating an environment where the credit, loans and other banking services are more user-friendly and accessible. Even in rural areas where financial literacy opportunities are limited (which can be a real barrier to entry). An additional feature of Lucy is serving as a social hub, where entrepreneurship experience and knowledge can be exchanged between members of the community and finding active mentors and support.
The First Women’s Bank is another dedicated banking solution for women that offers a more inclusive environment with better support and credit accessibility. It is unique because it was entirely founded, owned, and managed by women with the ultimate goal of eliminating gender gaps in access to capital.
Ellevest is an additional women-centred solution. Their mission is to get more money in the hands of women with a plethora of financial services including, coaching and education. The coaching sessions and workshops include one-on-one sessions or group sessions on budgeting, retirement planning, and debt planning.
Besides the fact that these Fintechs are focusing on women, the shared elements of these three FemFintech solutions are the unique combination of support, education, human interaction and empowerment. Among the three companies, Ellevst is the only solution that helps women prepare for retirement. Still, none of the solutions above addresses the specific challenge of the cost of care of women from a lifetime perspective.
In this regard, FemFintech could prove incredibly useful. Medical services are moving rapidly towards a future where Fintech solutions are democratized and used to access and make out-of-pocket (OOP) payments. The improved inclusivity of FemFintech will allow women to access a wide range of medical services that may have been previously out of reach, and enjoy affordable costs overall, due to increased efficiency of payments and transparency.
Therefore FemFintech solutions offer an environment that can eliminate barriers, giving the opportunity for women to prioritize important medical services at lower costs while avoiding services and treatments that are unlikely to improve patient outcomes.
In our perspective, FemFintech is very important for many other reasons. Studies have been showing consistently that women benefit from greater inclusivity. One study showed that adolescent girls that are put into separate classes from boys in math and science were more likely to achieve better results. Moreover, it seems that even gendered language plays a role in women’s performance (in languages where gendered generics are used). A study performed over 59 countries showed that both women and men performed better in exams when addressed with their respective feminine and masculine gendered generics (English is an example of a language that has gender-neutral addressing in second-person and therefore is not included in this study).
Inclusivity and education dedicated to women can also mitigate the risk aversion of women. Women report worrying more about their privacy and being less willing to share their data with Fintech companies to obtain better products and offers. Dedicated Fintech solutions that offer improved support and education could reduce women’s risk aversion and the perceived risks of sharing personal data.
Digital literacy is another significant barrier to entry. In developing countries, women were found to be 25% less likely than men to be online. Services that explicitly target rural areas of the world (e.g., Lucy), with a simpler and more intuitive UI, and personalized support, could increase the chances that a person that is digitally illiterate would use their services.
Overall, we can see promising changes in the gender gap in finance. While some argue that women will eventually hold more wealth than men, some areas still suffer greatly from inequality, such as financial education, rates of use of digital financial tools, and lowering barriers to entry. Several dedicated Fintech solutions exist, but they seem to be only the first advancements in the field.
Given these trends, we need to find new ways to increase Fintech use rates using FemFintechs that excel in usability and accessibility. In addition, encouraging women entrepreneurship by the means of Fintech will help the emergence of more Fintech start-ups led by women for women. More research is needed if we want to break down the financial gender gap even further with the effects of education, marital status, employment status, etc. That being said, we can harness the knowledge already acquired from existing services and use them as case studies to develop more women-dedicated solutions. We might very well be at the brink of a better understanding of the gender gap in wealth, account ownership and access to credit, unlocking valuable information to increase the usage of Fintech by women, in the very near future.
*Written by Liran Lavi, the head of Social Media, Fintech for Longevity.