Breaking barriers: Banca Widiba's quest for gender equality in finance

23/04/2024 Interview
profile picture of Francesca Marchelli

Francesca Marchelli

Banca Widiba

Director of Communications

Banca Widiba in Italy takes the issue of gender equality very seriously. In fact, its recent study on the subject provides an excellent overview of the situation in Italy. Francesca Marchelli, Director of Communications at Banca Widiba, spoke to Qorus' Boris Plantier about the subject.

You recently carried out a study on gender differences when it comes to money. Where did this idea come from? Why did you do this project?

At Banca Widiba we have always been convinced that fostering women's inclusion and valuing diversity in the financial world is not only one of the most important primary social roles, but also a duty of the institutions that are part of our industry. Indeed, women's financial awareness is an issue to which Banca Widiba has always been committed, setting itself the goal of having a positive impact and contributing to the creation of an increasingly equitable and inclusive society.

For this reason, Banca Widiba decided in 2022 to launch the research project ‘Women and Money: A Challenge for Inclusion’. This study, carried out with the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, brought to light – for the first time in Italy – important findings. These included the fact that, in our country, one-third of women do not have a source of income and that just as many consider their knowledge of finance still insufficient. Despite the perception – common to both men and women – that they have the same ability in money management and equal notions of financial education received in the family, the study shows how stereotypes, still persistent in our society, are responsible for women's exclusion from management in the financial sphere.

What are the main findings of this study?

The research project ‘Women and Money: A Challenge for Inclusion’ has provided a better understanding of how stereotypical beliefs regarding the financial sphere profoundly influence people's attitudes and behaviors. In particular, it is interesting to note that the study findings show that the difficulty in accessing useful information does not stem from differences related to educational processes, but can be found throughout the social context that sees women as secondary actors in the world of finance.

Stereotypes were also analyzed in our 2023 study ‘Women and Money: Financial Advice’, in relation to the perception of the role of the financial advisor, a profession that actually has many advantages for women and society. Indeed, the female financial advisors surveyed stated that the profession allows them to develop career paths with high social value (over 85%), characterized by the realization of high status (over 70%) and autonomy (over 90%). Moreover, 86.1% of the participants considered themselves very satisfied with the support they received from their bank. 

The study was presented to the press at a round table on 29 November. What was the outcome of this event? How was the study received?

The second phase of the ‘Women and Money’ research project, with a focus on financial advice, was presented on 29 November 2023, with a roundtable involving Claudia Manzi, Professor of Social Psychology at the Università Cattolica and scientific head of the project, Banca Widiba's District and Recruiting Manager Barbara Strapazzini, who is also one of our financial advisors, and numerous other experts in the field. These included Emanuela Spernazzati, Career Coach, HR Trainer and LinkedIn Top Voice on the topic of employment, Carolina Sansoni, Co-Founder of Talkin Pills, and Anna Caterina Helm, author at Freeda Media. We are happy to have also received very positive feedback from the media in terms of outreach. Since 2022, when we launched the project, there have been about 200 dedicated shoots.

Have the study's findings led to any changes at Widiba with regard to its management of women financial advisors?

These data have certainly underscored the need for new systemic actions to foster greater inclusion of women in financial asset management. We need to work to break down stereotypes, which, as we have seen, are still one of the biggest obstacles to women's involvement in finance – because the stereoptypes impact the evaluation of women and therefore their behaviors, creating a vicious cycle. At Banca Widiba we are planning training and workshops for our Financial Advisor Network on creating and using more inclusive language. I am convinced that the world of banking, together with the media, schools and universities, should be the first to reverse the direction and create a virtuous cycle instead.

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