What She Wants: Market Insight from GBA Members

The Paradox of Gender-Neutral Banking

Joanne Thomas Yaccato launched GBA’s “The Paradox of Gender-Neutral Banking,” based on research from 12 GBA members. Over the last decade, financial services firms have assumed the best way to reach women is to treat all customers equally, acting as though gender differences that are prevalent across the world disappear when they come to a bank. However, women are least satisfied with financial services out of all services (BCG), they feel that they are not taken seriously by banks, and there is an estimated credit gap for women of 800 billion US dollars (IFC). As such, this approach may need to be re-evaluated.

Key Points

  • Gender-neutral banking assumes that gender differences that exist in all parts of life disappear with finance.
  • Equality and equity are not the same thing:
    • In banking, gender neutrality means equal treatment for both sexes. Equal treatment means everyone gets the same: There are no identifying characteristics.
    • Equity recognizes differences. It gives everyone what they need to succeed, so the product or service may be tailored to specific needs.
  • Women and men have different gender cultures, and they make decisions differently.
    • Women process vast amounts of information from a wide variety of sources, including non-verbal cues.
    • They spend time differently. Women in the paid labor force around the world spend an average of 2.5 hours a day more than their partners on home and childcare.

The GBA isolated five main criteria that are critical to successful customer value propositions that target women:

  • Women have a unique relationship with time, as they often manage business and home responsibilities, they want flexibility, they are very tuned in to time-wasters, and they spend a lot of time to figure out if the product offered is relevant to their lives.
    • Communicate information in a way that is relevant to women.
    • Position products as solutions to problems.
    • Show how you are “making her life simpler” not “saving her time.”
  • Women are avid consumers of information and advice. They will integrate all information about your company into making a decision. Information, education and networking should be positioned as core products, not soft, additional products.
  • Women are calculated risk-takers. Once women are equipped with all information, there are no gender differences with risk-taking. Banks can build women’s financial management capability and educate them on good debt vs. bad debt.
  • Women do not like “pink marketing.” Pink marketing does not address anything that women are looking for. A bank that informs rather than sells is more successful. Tell stories – use testimonials.
  • Women want to connect. They want relationship, not transaction-based interactions.

Panels Button

Joanne Thomas Yaccato 2016 GBA Summit


President, The Thomas Yaccato Group
Presentation (members only)


“If you make it women-friendly, you make it everyone-friendly.”
— Joanne Thomas Yaccato

“Women are looking for flexibility, ways to support personal autonomy, holistic solutions. … Pink marketing doesn’t address any of those.”
— Joanne Thomas Yaccato