Victor Motta, Associate Professor of Finance and researcher at SKEMA Business School, is particularly interested in studying gender issues within the context of microfinance. He tells us more about his work, what surprised him the most and how his research is impacting society.

Could you tell us more about your field of research and particularly your research on gender balance at the top management echelons?

A large part of my research is in the area of empirical development economics. I am particularly interested in studying gender issues within the context of microfinance, financial inclusion and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as recent empirical evidence indicates that women-owned SMEs are less likely to have access to finance and have lower performance as well. Part of my research seeks to understand the mechanisms through which women-owned SMEs are more severely affected. Another strand of my research focuses on gender and financial inclusion, defined as having access to affordable formal financial services, using the World Bank Global Findex Database.

What results surprised you the most?

Worldwide, women are still less likely to own a bank account, save and have access to borrowing instruments, although the gender gap has been declining since 2011. In Brazil, for instance, conditional cash transfer programs, such as the Programa Bolsa Família, were critical to provide access to financial intermediation to women and vulnerable households.

What is the research you are currently carrying out?

I have currently been working on several projects related to gender issues, from estimating the impact of board diversity (including both gender and racial composition of Board of Directors) on the financial performance of microfinance institutions and community development financial institutions to women’s health, domestic violence and women’s labor market participation and understanding gender differences in financial inclusion. More specifically on financial inclusion, I have been interested in understanding the role of digital financial technologies, such as mobile money, to mitigate gender disparities in accessing financial services.

How does this study impact society at large?

Digital technology alone is not enough to increase financial inclusion. For women to disproportionally benefit from digital financial services, future research needs to target issues on both physical infrastructure, such as reliable electricity and mobile networks, as people will be less likely to use digital payments if network outages are persistent. Financial infrastructure, including an adequate payments system and digital platforms, is also needed. However, technology and infrastructure are only part of the picture. To ensure that women benefit from digital financial services, future research should target regulation issues as well as consumer protection safeguards. It is also important to examine the determinants of access to the digital technology needed to use these services. Finally, financial services should be tailored to the needs of disadvantaged groups, such as women, low-income households and first-time users who may have low financial education skills.

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