Agent Gender Matters, but How to Recruit and Retain Women Agents?

Posted on 08/28/2023

Jayanthi, a business correspondent (BC) agent with a Small Finance Bank, runs a small grocery shop in Tamil Nadu and operates her agent business daily from 10am to 5pm, providing cash-in-cash-out facilities. Before associating with the bank and becoming an agent over a year ago, she was a housewife. When asked what the best part of her job was and if she was being paid enough, she humbly replied, “Pay, I am not sure, but since I am doing this work, people know who Jayanthi is, and that is the best part.”

Across the country, numerous female agents echo Jayanthi's sentiment, resonating with the idea that the agent business has given them a newfound identity and agency. Many of them are learning the ropes of running a business, gaining digital skills and marching ahead on the pathways for economic empowerment.

Multiple research studies conducted worldwide have confirmed the essential role of women agents in advancing the cause of financial inclusion and fostering business growth for financial service providers (FSPs). Grameen Foundation India, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, implemented the BEADS (Business Correspondent Network Manager Experiment and Demonstrating Scale) project from 2021-2023 to enhance agent viability and women's participation in agent networks. Research findings from the project endline evaluation, surveying 433 agents and 434 customers across seven Indian states, further strengthen the evidence on the benefits of female agents. Our findings indicated that female customers prefer female agents, and agents serving more women customers experience increased income and job satisfaction.

Since I am doing this work, people know who Jayanthi is, and that is the best part.  
— Jayanthi, a Grameen Foundation business correspondent in India

Four Proven Strategies for Recruiting and Retaining Female Agents

While gender inclusivity is essential, we must recognize the obstacles FSPs encounter when onboarding female agents.

Surveys have reported that business correspondent network managers (BCNMs) have to channel more effort and resources into recruiting and retaining women candidates than men. Through qualitative discussions with different BCNMs, we also discovered that despite their desire to promote gender inclusivity, institutions face difficulties recruiting female agents due to societal norms and limited female applicants.

In this context, the BEADS project tested solutions for improving recruiting and retaining female agents. Our endline evaluation and experience revealed four proven strategies that work to drive the recruitment and retention of women agents in India or similar socio-economic contexts.

Read the full article on FinDev Gateway

Empower smallholder farmers to lift themselves out of poverty.
Give Now