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Formalising female empowerment in fintech: Change won't happen until we start talking truthfully.

“It’s time to embrace transparency” when it comes to talking about the issues facing women in finance, writes Moneycorp's Marianne Gilmore.

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Marianne Gilmore/Moneycorp.

Open LinkedIn on International Women’s Day and you’ll likely see content split into three main camps: praise for and celebration of gender equality initiatives, criticism of companies that have missed the mark, and the content that attracted that scrutiny in the first place.

It’s absolutely vital that we celebrate genuine success, and hold people to account where it’s needed. However, what’s missing is a more nuanced discussion of the areas in between.

Transparently and generously discussing the issues that women still face in traditionally male-dominated finance businesses will help us all share solutions so we can tackle this problem together.

The industry state of play

There is still work to be done to create more fertile grounds for female success in fintech. The first step is acknowledging where we’re currently falling short. For example, we need to see more women take on leadership roles.

Globally, within financial services institutions, women held 21 per cent of board seats, 19 per cent of C-suite roles, and 5 per cent of CEO positions in 2021.

With 33 per cent of our own C-Suite comprising women at Moneycorp, we’re sitting ahead of the average, but there’s still more we can do.

It’s time to get a little more honest

Happily, recent news shows that FTSE 350 companies have hit their board-level diversity targets three years early — so change is happening.

Nevertheless, it’s probable that the reason these companies were able to achieve this is that they didn’t shy away from where they stood and faced it head-on.

To create a truly equal fintech sector we need to avoid the temptation to resort to binaries: either telling the world about our progress or staying silent because we haven’t made enough. It’s time to embrace transparency.

If we can lean into accountability and open dialogue, we stand a much better chance of identifying any gaps and making positive changes together.

One of the best things businesses, and those that lead them, can do is to make the distinction between short-term measures we can introduce now, versus long-term behavioural changes that gradually work towards gender equity by addressing systemic issues.

Some good places to start

At Moneycorp, much like many of our peers, we still have a long way to go — but we mustn’t let the size of the challenge get in the way. So, in the spirit of transparency, we’re sharing some ideas that we’ve started to formalise ourselves.

1. Mentorship and networking

As we’ve already mentioned, the percentage of women reaching senior roles in fintech is still worryingly low. Mentoring programmes will help more women advance into leadership roles, and are particularly helpful when it comes to encouraging early-career employees.

Providing women-only networking events will create a space for them to share their experiences and build their visibility and profile with other key colleagues. These should be balanced with events that include all genders, building allyship and awareness across the whole workforce. That way, people from all backgrounds, across the entire organisation, can better understand the inequality facing women at work and are better equipped to play a role in fixing it.

2. Recruitment

Nurturing female talent can start as early as the recruitment stage. Eliminating bias is incredibly important. Traditionally male-dominated sectors like finance are particularly susceptible to affinity bias (being more likely to hire people who closely match their own appearance or background, often unintentionally).

One way to combat this is by committing to blind CV screenings. Building diversity, equality and inclusion statements into your recruitment policy is also a key step, as is ensuring they’re acted upon.

3. Inclusive leave

In a 2022 study, 80 per cent of parents said that unequal parental leave policies were reinforcing traditional gender roles in the workplace. Evaluating leave policies to make sure they are fair and inclusive will support employee wellbeing and make it easier for people having children and all caregivers to juggle both family and career. This can include maternity and enhanced maternity leave, shared parental leave, and adoption leave, while a Bill to allow employees time off from work for fertility treatment is currently being debated in the House of Commons.

While menopause leave is a relatively new concept for many businesses, it shouldn’t be.

According to a 2022 government report, poor workplace support for people experiencing menopause is causing the UK to ‘haemorrhage talent’. Allowing menopause leave and creating internal comms that reduce the stigma around taking it will help address this. Policies can include flexible work arrangements, access to menopause-related health resources, and time off to manage symptoms.

There is no universal solution or policy that will address gender inequality in our sector for good. But as business leaders, committing to open and honest conversations will help us learn from each other.

Achieving gender equality in fintech and financial services is an ongoing process. By formalising and committing to driving forward diversity and inclusion initiatives, businesses can reduce gender biases and create equal opportunities for women. It’s a big mountain to climb, but if we keep putting one foot in front of the other — consistently and in good faith — eventually we’ll get there.

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