Creating an ‘impact that matters’

Feb 28, 2020

Caroline McGroary explains how Irish Chartered Accountants can work within the UN sustainable development goals framework to empower women around the world.

Recent statistics estimate financial literacy rates of Saudi citizens to be just over 30%, compared with other high-income countries, like Ireland, which have rates in excess of 70%. Within this group, women are at particular risk of financial exclusion, with approximately only 40% of Saudi women holding bank accounts, compared to 93% in other high-income countries.

To help address this problem, a number of high-profile campaigns have been launched by the Saudi government in the last year to increase the financial literacy of all citizens, with many framing their campaigns under the umbrella of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In my current role as Lecturer in Accounting at Dublin City University (DCU), I have had the privilege of working in our sister campus at Princess Nourah University, Saudi Arabia for seven years, contributing to the education of nearly 700 Saudi women.

Utilising the UN SDGs

Both Chartered Accountants Ireland and DCU actively encourage its members and staff to engage with the UN SDGs and, with this in mind, we sought to centre student learning around financial literacy. Using the framework of the UN SDGs, we integrated a financial literacy initiative into a final year module on our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

The initiative had three parts. The first required students to engage in up to five financial literacy workshops, including financial planning, savings, investing, credit reports, money and identify theft. The second part required them to demonstrate how financial education (SDG 4 – quality education) of women in Saudi Arabia could contribute towards gender equality (SDG 5 – gender equality). In doing so, students were asked to consider innovative financial education solutions to help improve the financial literacy levels of four groups in Saudi society:

  1. children in schools;
  2. women in higher education;
  3. women in the workplace; and
  4. women in the home.

The proposed solutions were showcased at a university-wide event attended by faculty, student peer groups and industry partners.

The third part was a hackathon, hosted by Deloitte. At this one-day event, students had the opportunity to develop their financial education solutions further under the guidance of a team of Deloitte mentors.

The initiative gained the support and active involvement of a number of high profile industry partners, including the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States, Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, the Rockefeller Foundation, Deloitte, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, the Capital Market Authority, financial planning experts UConsulting and Chartered Accountants Worldwide.

Not only have the industry partners endorsed this work, but many refer to it as an example of an ‘impact that matters’. The students have also stated that it has improved their financial literacy skills and knowledge of the UN SDGs – knowledge and skills they can now bring to their families and local communities.

This initiative serves as a practical example of how Chartered Accountants can create high-impact initiatives that empower women not just within our own community, but throughout the world. 

Caroline McGroary ACA is a lecturer in accounting at Dublin City University.