Bringing the unbanked into the formal financial system requires innovation—but sometimes the innovation required is far from what we spend most of our time thinking about. A post at the New York Fed’s Liberty Street Economics blog details an important innovation required to bring women into bank branches at the turn of the 20th century: a private room for extracting cash from their stockings.
The post notes other important milestones in banking women—a long term process that began around the time of the U.S. Civil War when California established the financial independence of women regardless of marital status. Still, more than a century later, the “ridiculous” idea of women managing their own bank accounts was being used for easy laughs on television shows.
I recommend visiting this page from Well Fargo’s history of women and banking ("Women as Customers") which Liberty Street Economics draws from. It’s a helpful reminder that making financial services useful and accessible often has as much of a social component as it does a product, location or finance component. We too often underestimate the social costs of joining the formal financial system.