In an industry as traditional as finance, fintech has prided itself as a disrupter. But in one respect fintech remains firmly conservative: gender diversity.
Less than 8 per cent of fintech directors globally are women compared to 22 per cent of board members at the world’s 30 biggest banks, new research by headhunter DHR International has found.
“Fintech has the opportunity to bring a new culture of change and flexibility, so it is surprising that there are not more women on the fintech boards,” Gert Stürzebecher, partner at DHR, told the Financial Times.
Gender diversity has undergone a vogue the past several years, inspiring the formation of a constellation of niche activist groups, such as Women in Finance, Women on Boards Australia and Women in Banking and Finance.
"Fintechs need particular things, they need to attract money. The simple reality is if you go onto the market for long term finance executives it's not that there aren't any women around but that they're mostly men - especially with long track records. That's how it has always been," says Amanda Dobbie, CEO of Women in Banking and Finance.
"It's not that there aren’t women with appropriate skills. It's that fintech companies are looking for contacts to attract money, so they need very influential people with long track records. So it's a pipeline issue. They need veterans."
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, women make up 55 per cent of workers in finance and insurance. But while constituting the majority of the workforce, women suffer a 27 per cent pay gap among full time staff.
The pay gap owes to several causes, such as female concentration in back end roles like marketing and HR, and sitting lower on corporate hierarchies. Women tend to be excluded from the higher-paid reaches of finance, such as venture capital, which research has likewise found women to make up only 8 per cent of board members.
There are examples of women at the top of Australian fintech. Charlotte Petris is the CEO of Timelio, and named among the top 100 women of influence in finance. Katherine McConnell is the CEO of Brighte, a Sydney-based fintech. But these are exceptions proving the rule.
Scandinavian countries are often taken as the benchmark for womens’ workplace participation. Specifically Norway, where companies that fail to have at least 40 per cent women as board members are delisted. Norway has the most gender equal boardrooms.
While sizeable, the pay gap is closing.The proportion of women on ASX 200 boards has increased sharply in recent years. Last year, 42 per cent of directors appointed to the boards were women, compared with 5 per cent in 2009.
Politics has also started responding. The Victorian Labour government has set a hard quota of 50/50 for courts and public boards by 2018. The South Australian senator Nick Xenephon has introduced a bill proposing 40/40/20 for all federal boards.