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Designing for Women, One Product at a Time

By Bunita Sawhney

Women control upwards of 80% of household buying decisions, yet too much of our world was designed without their needs in mind, and without them involved. This results in missed opportunities that hold us all back.

The solution is clear: having women—and their perspectives—firmly represented in product development leads to better products for women, for everyone.

Women entrepreneurs and their ingenuity are central to this. They contribute over $3 trillion to today’s economy and open businesses at double the rate of men, yet only 3 percent of global venture dollars are invested in female-only funded startups. Mastercard Start Path, our award-winning startup engagement program that provides participants unparalleled access to Mastercard’s technology, solutions expertise and partner network, is helping to change that.

Meet Joanna Bichsel, an entrepreneur and Start Path member. Joanna founded Kasha, an e-commerce company that delivers health and beauty products directly to women in Kenya and Rwanda, after noticing that women didn’t have access to the feminine products and contraceptives they needed. She developed products that are delivered in discreet boxes; women can pay with their digital wallets using any type of mobile phone, no internet or smart phone required.

Just last year, we added eight female-founded startups to Start Path. And, half of the program’s participants overall are women-founded, -funded or led. We’re helping them better design and scale solutions around the world. So far, our female-founded/-led start-ups have raised nearly $1 billion in capital investment.

“Being part of Start Path is like having an internal champion immediately within Mastercard, a relationship that usually takes years to build with other corporations,” says Joanna. “It opens doors that were previously unknown to me.”

Within Mastercard, we’re taking a similar hard look at ensuring our solutions are designed for and by women. Recently, we established inclusivity best practices within our product development lifecycle—including research and testing—to remove unconscious bias and ensure the unique priorities of women are addressed.

For instance, the vast majority of women are seeking to protect and prioritize their families – 85% of women agree that this is an important personal value, according to the Kantar Global Monitor. One way that we’re addressing this need is through access to key services. We’re currently running a pilot program with select card issuers in Latin America that provides cardholders access to a low-cost, app-based healthcare service. With financial independence an important component of empowering women, we’re also sponsoring programs like Path to Priceless to connect women business owners with resources such as learning modules and mentorship.

This is just the beginning.

To reach more women across more geographies, we’re helping our customers expand inclusivity in their own product development efforts. We’ve launched the “Women Sparks” incubation series  to co-create and design solutions that address a well-defined business challenge and, ultimately, stand to transform women’s access to financial services.

Connecting people to possibilities is fundamental to what we do at Mastercard. I’m honored to be part of this work