Snigdha Ali and Maria May

Podcast Interview

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Snigdha Ali and Maria May, of the Gates Foundation examine the opportunities digital and mobile finance create in empowering women.

Gender equity is still a long way off. The World Economic Forum estimates that global pandemic has set the gender gap back 36 years. Is digital finance one of the ways that gender equity might be boosted?

The global pandemic has sped up the use of digital – in no bigger way than in digital and mobile finance. According to the World Bank, pre-pandemic, in 2017, around 230 million people working in the private sector globally were getting paid in cash. People who are effectively, unbanked or underbanked. Snigdha and Maria explain why being unbanked is a serious inequality issue
and how digital financing can create economic empowerment, particularly for women in emerging markets.

Snigdha Ali is the Program Officer for Bangladesh at the Gates Foundation and manages the country portfolio for advancing financial inclusion with a special focus on increasing women’s access to financial products and services. Prior to joining the Foundation, she worked as a senior gender and research consultant at the World Bank, led teams pushing for organizational gender mainstreaming at BRAC and co-authored the book titled “Voices to Choices: Bangladesh’s Journey in Women’s Economic Empowerment” published in 2019.

Maria May, leads the Gates Foundation’s efforts to accelerate impactful usage of digital financial services by unbanked and low-income people globally. She spent seven years with BRAC in Bangladesh, where amongst other things she led the R&D team for the microfinance program and oversaw the launch of BRAC’s innovation fund for mobile money, which incubated pilots such as digitizing school fees, emergency cash transfers and savings deposits.

During our conversation – Snigdha and Maria deep dive into all things digital finance and economic empowerment for women, with a particular focus on Bangladesh. Together they explore: Why digital payments have been a lifeline for some of the most vulnerable people during lockdown; How mobile payments can unlock opportunities for women to be a part of the formal economy; whilst highlighting challenges that remain in creating gender equity.

This podcast is packed full of statistics, first-hand insights and real-life examples.

If you would like to be a part of the solution or find out more about ways to support gender equity, do join The Business Fights Poverty – Gender Summit 8th and 9th March 2022.

More information:


WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2021:

Financial Inclusion Index:

Social Protections/Government Payments and Digital Financial Services:

World Bank on digital finance:

Gates Foundation, The Impact of Mobile Money on Poverty:

ILO, Wage digitization:–en/index.htm
Within Reach How Digital Wages That Work for Women Can Support Bangladesh’s Economic


Digital Wages: Positive Impact for Women and Business:

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