Gender equality has been under scrutiny for well over a year now in the fintech industry. Do I believe there is an issue? Sure. Do I want to talk about it? 100%. However, my concern is that there is a definite and very strong ‘half empty glass’ public perception on this subject, and personally I do not believe that will help to solve this brewing problem.
To be more specific, there is too much negative emphasis on the lack of women in fintech. For change to occur I believe the industry as a whole - women and men – need to celebrate and publically promote the positive and incredible inroads women have made in fintech in a very short time. It is human nature to be driven by positive versus negative energy and if we want to see a flood of women enter this market, the positive celebration needs to begin immediately. This approach is especially important if we want to encourage young women to enter the exciting and fast-paced world of fintech.
I am privileged to witness this on a constant and daily basis in my working environment, seeing both men and women create successful opportunities for not only themselves, but more importantly, new and exciting opportunities specifically for women they have taken under their wing with the aim of mentoring them.
From fintech to e-commerce, there are wonderful examples illustrating the growth of women in our field. For example, in 2015, Innotribe produced a white paper on this subject titled ‘Power Women in Fintech Index: Bridging the Gender’. As part of the paper it shared an index that listed over 400 successful women from around the world and across various industries in the fintech community.
This encouraging report highlighted female CEOs, executive managers, founders, start-up promoters, financiers, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, professionals, innovators, regulators, influencers and thought leaders. The index gives a voice to the positive and applauds the contributions of women who continually challenge and drive the Fintech ecosystem forward.
Since the fintech industry heavily supports E-commerce businesses, it is critical to also discuss the tremendous change on that front as well. Globally, more women are starting their own E-commerce businesses through websites like Amazon, Alibaba, Etsy and personal websites. For example, 1.1 million Alibaba entrepreneurs in the US are women, according to SDC.
In the UK, a particularly large rise in female e-commerce entrepreneurs has been observed. Research from eBay, in partnership with independent economists, Development Economics, revealed in late 2015, that the number of self-employed women in the UK rose by 28% in the five years between 2009 and 2014. In contrast, the number of self-employed men rose by a mere 10% during the same period.
Specifically in e-commerce, the research found that the UK is home to the highest proportion of specialist online retail businesses established by women – 54%, compared to just 46% by men. In the US, the figure is 48% and for Germany 44%.
On the flip side, today, women are the most dominant group of online consumers. In fact, as women control global household spending, this has reached $20 trillion dollars. The Gilt Group estimate that women comprise approximately 70% of the overall E-Commerce customer base and that they drive 74% of revenue.
If I summed up the ‘Celebratory’ steps needed for change, they would be as follows:
* Focus on the positive side by highlighting powerful women in fintech and take action by developing mentor programs, organising meetings, as well as publishing more content about successful women in the industry.
* Encourage and excite the next generation - with a focus on Generation Y&Z - to consider careers in fintech. For example, persuade industry companies to customise internships specifically for university-age women.
The bottom line, is there room for improvement? Absolutely. But sometimes, it is worth highlighting the positive and empowering developments instead of just focusing on the negative side. Because if we don’t talk about that – the success, the stepping-stones, the achievements, the great careers and the inspiring women and men who make it happen – we will lose the courage, the incentive and the momentum to keep advancing.
By Nadja Sittler, Director of Sales and Business Development, Credorax.