This paper descriptively analyzes longitudinal microfinance outreach numbers and interview data from 140 practitioners and borrowers in Pakistan to examine whether the claim that microfinance enhances gender equity in access to finance can be substantiated. This assertion has recently replaced the more ambitious contention that microfinance has an empowering impact on women. The paper argues that this shift has occurred because of increased commercialization at the global level and authoritative assessments against the empowerment claim. The study further considers whether the frame of competing logics from institutional theory can explain the case of the Pakistani microfinance sector, in which, as shown here, commercialized microfinance has actually led to a rise in gender inequalities in access to finance. The paper attributes this rise to the inability of the Pakistani microfinance sector to reconcile the competing logics of development and banking.
Microfinance, gender inequality, institutional analysis