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Using Language to Identify Underserved Groups

Amir Shoham and his co-authors investigated whether cross-cultural differences in gender expectations influenced microfinance institutions’ (MFIs) global targeting strategies to underserved groups, such as female entrepreneurs.

The researchers posit that gender discrimination tends to be more common in cultures with languages containing more gender distinctions in grammatical structure. Using this “gendered language marking” as a guide, they found that MFIs strategically targeted their services to women in such cultures, and challenged discriminatory gender norms by empowering women with access to financial services.

While critics have argued that MFIs overtarget women where discrimination is low, Shoham’s research dispels such notions, proving that MFIs gravitate to supporting those most in need.