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Exclusive: OBE launches ‘Pass the Mic’ campaign to find the female stars of fintech

Open Banking Excellence founder Helen Child is spearheading the initiative to champion women in the industry and address fintech’s gender diversity challenge.

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Helen Child/Open Banking Excellence.

It isn’t news to tell you that fintech has a huge issue with gender diversity.

Women are underrepresented in fintech across the board, and that’s a fact.

There are not enough women in fintech in general, not enough women at the executive level, and not enough women represented in the fintech userbase.

That’s not to say it’s all doom and gloom, however, and there are many fintechs and women in fintech that are trying to help turn the tide.

At Open Banking Excellence (OBE), they are launching a ‘Pass the Mic’ campaign, with the specific aim of getting both men and women to nominate female colleagues who deserve a bigger platform and audience.

OBE founder Helen Child spoke to AltFi exclusively about the company’s goal to uplift the voices of women in the fintech industry next year and to get more people, and men specifically, to ‘Pass the Mic’ over to women.

“I think [promoting diversity of thought] is something that I do instinctively and we as a team do naturally,” Child said.

“We have come to the conclusion that we need a little bit more firepower around what we do instinctively, so we are legitimising and formalising what we do to give it more prominence and therefore a better outcome. 

“It is that simple. More prominence will equal a better outcome.”

OBE is looking to find the “female stars of fintech” to speak at their monthly firesides next year and to encourage others in the fintech community to bring women to the forefront as well.

“I've always believed that quietly is the best way.”

OBE has set itself two formal challenges, the first of which is to get men and women to nominate a female colleague who deserves a bigger audience and to pass the mic to them.

The female-founded community of open banking and open finance pioneers, including fintechs, banks, regulators and financial services institutions, had more than twice as many men as women speaking at its monthly campfires this past year.

With a speaker list that was 72.15 per cent male and 27.85 per cent female in 2022, it is aiming for an equal gender balance in 2023, and calling on the community to put forward more women to help make that happen.

Child hopes to “inspire and drive positive change in the sector”, with the second formal challenge calling on every woman in fintech to mentor two other women in the industry to address the gender disparity.

Child credited Marisa Drew, chief sustainability officer at Credit Suisse, for originally setting the challenge to a group of women years ago with the aim of helping to single-handedly change the face of the industry.

The OBE founder specifically encouraged women to quietly, and authentically, seek to help other women in the industry, offering help and support through mentorship.

“I've always believed that quietly is the best way,” Child said.

“Through advocacy and being that quiet facilitator of change and really walking and living it as opposed to going out all guns blazing.”

“Sit down with your team, and make a team resolution to pass the mic to a woman wherever you can.”

When it comes to passing the mic over to women, OBE is looking to men in particular to shine a spotlight on their female colleagues. 

While there are a number of prominent, influential figures in fintech often called on to represent women in the industry who do a fantastic job, the responsibility of representing 50 per cent of the population should not fall on the shoulders of just a handful of people.

If every man put forward another woman in their organisation and helped bring them to the forefront, this would give so many more women the opportunity to speak if they wanted to, and a platform from which to be heard.

Not only would this encourage a greater diversity of thinking, but hopefully naturally increase the number of women involved in fintech across the board.

If every man who spoke at an OBE event last year passed the mic to a woman to speak next year, there would already be a list of 57 women.

Women alone cannot solve the gender diversity issue.

Men should be encouraged to put forward their female colleagues and given “kudos”, as Child puts it, when they do so, so that it becomes an authentic and instinctive action.

As we approach the new year, Child is calling on companies to set New Year’s resolutions to check in and see what they are doing to promote diversity in fintech, noting that it is as much about celebrating as it is campaigning.

“How fabulous would it be if there was that concentric circle, that ripple effect that just made everybody think in the new year, ‘Yes, we want to do that, but we're not doing enough of it. So let's actually make a New Year's resolution to mentor two females whenever we can.’ 

“Sit down with your team, and make a team resolution to pass the mic to a woman wherever you can,” Child said. 

“There are some amazing women that should be celebrated and this is a gentle check-in with your teams to make a New Year’s resolution that is very, very easy to keep,” she added.

“And in your heart, you probably want to do it anyway. Just bring it to the front of your mind.”

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