Where are the women?

By Caroline Lister on Wednesday 13 January 2016

I was stunned the other day by a female colleague who had been to a crowdfunding industry event and noted that she was one of only two women in a room of 40 people. In my industry, the modern, fast paced, flexible, innovative and disruptive world of fintech? Surely not.

Women are a positive influence in the workplace

According to Doteveryone, only 18% of the tech workforce are women. There are some brilliant women in this industry and I meet them all the time, polished professional people who are achieving great things, but could there be more? Yes, and I would love to see many more. There is no question that a good balance of men and women creates the most successful enterprises.

This is supported by a growing body of evidence showing that companies that have a gender-balanced leadership team tend to make more profit. A Sodexo report for example found that companies where one-third of the board members are women showed profit margins 42% better and shareholder returns an average 53% higher than rival firms with fewer women on their boards.

What I have noticed

But what is holding us back and what can be done? It is such a complex topic that there are no easy answers but I offer here some personal reflections…

Very often in my career I have noticed how outnumbered the women have been by men and all too often I have been the only woman myself in a room, especially at the more senior levels. I wasn’t surprised when that was the case in my time in traditional banking, but I am more surprised that in the exciting sphere of fintech there are not more female leaders.

Having children is clearly a big factor in the career paths of women. I have been fortunate with VentureFounders that I am able to work 3 days per week, allowing me to try to achieve some sort of balance with my two year old twins.  Coming back to work after children is not always easy and it is a little discussed topic that women often lose a lot of confidence as their work world moves on quickly while they are taking time out to be with their newborn babies. Making their entrance back into the working world can be daunting. Furthermore I agree with the new CBI director general, Carolyn Fairbairn, that business dinners are not that appealing to a lot of women and this can mean missing out on crucial networking and decision making. This is an industry however that has the ability to be flexible, agile and create space for the brilliant women who can help to shape it.  

Clearly there are many other factors that determine the careers of women, whether that is how jobs are filled, networks created, lack of role models, pay levels decided, etc.  

Scouting for girls

And what am I doing about it? Well as I write I am resolving to sign myself up to more networking events and engage much more actively with the various organisations that promote women in the industry. I think there is an enormous amount for me to learn and perhaps as an experienced leader myself in the industry I can also lend some support to other women.

Hopefully, there won’t be too many more events in my industry where women are so poorly represented.

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