One of the biggest challenges Ann Cairns faced over the past year was working to spread MasterCard's financial inclusion mission into more countries where consumers lack banking networks and rely mostly on cash.

"Our goal is to reach the next 500 million consumers," says Cairns, who manages all markets outside of North America for MasterCard. She was also featured in PaymentsSource's 2013 Most Influential Women in Payments.

In the last two years, MasterCard has worked with the South African government to reach a fifth of its population, 21 million people, with biometric benefits cards, Cairns says. "We have similar projects across Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America, which will reach over 350 million people in the next few years."

In the partnership she says is "closest to my heart," MasterCard's work with the World Food program has already helped 600,000 Syrian refugees buy food in Lebanon. MasterCard is working to roll out the same program in Jordan.

From her London office, Cairns also has to keep a close watch on digital and physical convergence in payments, as MasterCard continues to develop public and private partnerships to support emerging technologies.

Already, mobile technology has changed the way many people interact with the world around them. "Ten months is the starting age for iPad usage," Cairns says.

Consumers are beginning to pay in completely different ways, whether they are traveling, surfing the Web or shopping in stores, Cairns adds.

The payments industry "is a great business for women to progress in, and we need to see more of them," she says. "They can join in lots of areas … technology, product designers and sale managers."

Cairns wants to help women achieve the same success in business she has enjoyed.

"We are engaged in a number of things around the world which focus on educating women and helping them launch and run sustainable businesses," Cairns says. "We have schemes from Mexico to Bhutan."

Cairns calls her role as a senior sponsor representing MasterCard in a project with the Dubai women's business council "another very inspiring and enjoyable part of my job."

See the full list of honorees for this year's Most Influential Women in Payments.

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