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How the fintech sector can address its industry-wide gender imbalance
Pamela Mead, VP of Design at UK based Financial service provider SumUp, offers her insight on how fintech companies can address the gender imbalance within the industry.
As fintech continues its rapid and unprecedented growth, one area of the sector remains entirely stunted. March 1st marked the start of international women's month, and as companies take to social media to share support for women globally, what still remains largely unaddressed is how fintechs intend to make tangible ground towards addressing the gender imbalance in their workforces.
Statistics quoted by Deloitte revealed that just 30 per cent of the fintech workforce is female, a damning position for an industry premised on revolutionising the traditional finance sector. The gender imbalance in fintech stretches beyond a lack of female professionals; whilst the number of female-founded financial technology companies has increased, it is estimated that they receive 50 per cent less capital from funding rounds than male-founded startups.
All the statistics point towards industry-wide problems. Fintech is failing to support, fund and attract female talent. However, in recognising this, companies can begin to implement the changes necessary to create a more inclusive industry. Here are some ways in which real improvements can be made:
The first, and simplest, step that fintech can take, is wholesale change of recruitment methods. The answer is not as simple as just ‘recruiting more women’. Instead companies must rethink the key tenets of their recruitment process, including where they are recruiting from and the structure of the interview process. This is a crucial step in getting boards to address how their internal processes may be systematically exclusive. The point of reference needs to be shifted from employing more of the women that apply, to finding more ways to attract female applicants. As long as women feel as though there are inherent biases levied against them in the recruitment process, they will continue to seek opportunities in different fields.
With fintech’s two components - finance and tech - both being male-dominated industries, it is understandable that financial technology companies would display some of the same cultural issues that exist in both. However, by creating an understanding work culture that caters to the needs of all employees, not just the majority, fintech companies can play a key role in leading by example.
To address the gender imbalance within their workforces, more needs to be done to support and accommodate female employees and leaders. Implementing seminars and meetings to share female workplace perspectives can help to broach talking points and ensure that female voices are heard within the company.
Forming solidarity with female employees, who are in most cases the minority in fintech workspaces, creates an internal culture of support.
This guarantees that women don’t feel silenced or uncomfortable in their workplace. If fintech companies can propagate this culture of understanding, it will be hugely beneficial to both the retention and attraction of female fintech professionals.
In order to implement the aforementioned changes, we must see a greater effort to move more female fintech professionals into positions of leadership. The benefits of this are hugely practical. Statistically, firms with female representation in leadership roles are likely to outperform those without, which is unsurprising as teams without gender diversity have shown both hindered organisational and financial performances, as well as affected performance in creativity, completion of tasks and information sharing.
Therefore, an increased number of women in positions of leadership will not only correct many of the aforementioned issues - caused by gender imbalance - but also increase the likelihood of genuine changes to areas like recruitment and company culture.
Having an established spine of female voices throughout fintech companies, and the industry as a whole, gives women in fintech greater autonomy over policies and structures that will directly affect them, and their professional lives.
Directly linked to female leadership, the final, and most symbolically important thing fintech companies can do, is increase the visibility of their female leaders and employees. This can, and should only, be done once the former has been addressed.
However, by shining a light on the excellent work being done by female professionals in fintech companies, it instils belief for women looking to break into the industry, and those within the industry hoping to one day be VPs or CEOs. If women can see themselves represented at all levels of the corporate ladder, they are far more likely to have the confidence to consider fintech a viable career path.
A study conducted by Cornell University discovered a gender confidence gap, where men often overestimated their abilities and women tended to underestimate their abilities. So championing female fintech leaders, and increasing their visibility, plays a key role in giving women the initial belief to take their first steps into the fintech sector.
The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of AltFi.