In India, merely opening accounts for women won’t ensure equality
For some reason, the government appears to have developed last-minute cold feet about delivering the coup de grâce to the Bharatiya Mahila Bank, started with much fanfare a few years ago as a bank of, for and by women, which has been going nowhere in a hurry since its launch.
For a government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has often reiterated that he is not one to shy away from tough decisions (and who amply demonstrated this strength of will with the demonetisation decision), this reluctance is puzzling.
Because killing the Bharatiya Mahila Bank is not a very difficult decision to take. Tokenism has never achieved anything much anywhere, let alone in the field of gender equality in financial inclusion.
Closing the gap: if simply having women running the show was the answer to addressing the vast gender imbalance prevailing in the financial services sector, the issue should have been solved without taking recourse to creating a special bank run by women.
After all, India’s largest nationalised bank is run by a woman. So is India’s largest private sector bank. In fact, women-led banks in India – both nationalised and private sector – control an estimated 40% of assets in the banking sector.
This is the highest proportion in the world – no other country comes even close. So, if having women in charge was the answer, the issue of gender inequality in financial services should have been solved. Long ago.