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IWD 2024: How to 'Inspire Inclusion' in the world of Fintech
Thu, 7th Mar 2024

The theme for International Women's Day 2024, "Inspire Inclusion," strikes a chord within the fintech sector, mirroring the ongoing struggle for greater female representation in senior positions.

Despite efforts to create a new world of finance shaped by a diverse workforce, the gender balance at the very top of the fintech tree remains skewed, with men still occupying the majority of the most important leadership roles.

Understanding the Underrepresentation

In the UK, home to one of the world’s biggest fintech ecosystems, women represent only 11% of fintech boards and 20% of executive committees. These figures are significantly worse than the traditional financial sector that has persistently struggled to close the gender gap (and which fintech was meant to improve on). According to EY’s tracking of appointments, just 33 percent of all UK banking appointments in 2023 were female directors, a sharp drop from 61 percent in 2022. Internationally, figures show a similar downward trend. An IMF Report reveals that women hold less than 25% of board seats in banks, a drop from the year before, and bank supervision agencies account for about 5% of bank CEOs globally.

Challenges and Solutions 

Why are women so underrepresented in leadership roles across the fintech sector? The imbalance is the result of a number of factors that also exist in traditional finance and often play a major role in hindering female career progression. 

A significant hurdle often experienced by women is biases and stereotypes surrounding their capabilities to build and influence large-scale teams, often leading to unequal opportunities for career advancement and leadership positions. Additionally, workplace cultures that prioritise long hours and a cut-throat competitive environment generally attract more men than women - although not for the right reasons.

Importance of Representation 

Furthermore, the lack of mentorship and sponsorship opportunities exacerbates these challenges, as women may struggle to find support networks or advocates to champion their career growth. There is power and motivation in women seeing themselves represented in various roles and positions to believe that they can achieve similar success. We need to foster community and industry attention towards education and knowledge sharing amongst women in fintech.

Attracting and retaining female talent in fintech hinges on the principle of "be it, see it." Witnessing individuals with shared backgrounds or experiences in influential positions serves as a powerful catalyst for women to pursue their own aspirations. Role models who mirror their own identities inspire and empower women to envision themselves in similar roles.

Furthermore, the ongoing pipeline problem exacerbates the issue, as fewer women pursue STEM education and enter skilled fintech jobs that are building the products of the future.  This limited pool of female talent available for recruitment perpetuates the cycle of inequality within the industry, hindering efforts to achieve gender balance in senior tech roles as well. 

Addressing these challenges requires concerted efforts from both organisations and society at large to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, implement policies that combat bias and discrimination, and cultivate supportive and inclusive workplaces where women can thrive and succeed.

Inclusion Is Good for Business

Diversity matters for business growth, offering a range of perspectives and experiences is key for driving innovation, particularly in fintech. Therefore within this evolving landscape, the pivotal role of females in driving the next phase of growth for this sector cannot be overstated. However, assessing female inclusion extends beyond mere representation percentages, we need to delve into metrics such as rate of churn for female employees, composition of the leadership team, promotions, tenure, and the gender pay gap conversation to truly offer deeper insights into gender dynamics and ultimately inclusion.

Promoting Equitable Workplaces

While public companies often disclose reports on these key metrics, fintechs tend to refrain as ultimately there is no real obligation for them to publish them. The opaqueness surrounding pay and the disparity that appears between men and women still exists in fintechs and it may due to existing structures and processes, rather than intentional bias. For example, in an early-stage startup salaries can be determined by  negotiation due to the absence of specific pay bands, resources and structures.

Knowing Your Worth

A recent survey found that women are less likely to negotiate their salary than men - and are more fearful of asking for a pay raise. If women do ask for a wage increase, research shows that they still get less. That's why it's important to keep pushing - declining to press for higher pay can cost women over half a million pounds over a lifetime - and the chance to really make an impact in their careers and society as a whole. There's a new generation of women coming into the workforce - they can't “be it if they can't see it” - we need to be role models and to set an example through our determination and understanding of our own self worth. 

Something I learned early on from my own difficult conversations, is if you don’t ask, you don’t get. As women we must be prepared to navigate these challenging conversations over pay. Conducting thorough research on salary ranges and aligning one's skills and background with job qualifications can enhance confidence and efficacy during negotiations. Armed with knowledge and self-assurance, we can assertively advocate for fair compensation, contributing to the creation of a more equitable workplace environment. 

Closing the Gender Gap in Fintech

Designing financial services for the masses becomes unattainable when the workforce behind them lacks the diversity of the society it serves. Fintechs must prioritise closing the gender gap if the sector is serious about creating an inclusive economy that benefits everyone - or risk playing a big part in perpetuating the divide.