Role models must lead the way to bridge fintech gender gap

By Alex Hamilton | 5 December 2018

The fintech community needs to have more female role models if it is to redress its diversity issues and inspire young women to attempt a career in technology, according to a panel at Fintech Connect in London this week.

The 2017 Women in Fintech Powerlist revealed that 30% of the UK’s fintech workplace was female. The same study reported that 17% of senior roles were held by women, and that women are 20% less likely to win an endorsement for their ideas than a straight white man.

Andrea Dunlop, CEO of acquiring and card solutions at PaySafe, argued that girls need to be introduced to the world of fintech “from age 10 onwards”. “There need to be more of us out there inspiring people,” she said. “If we get to women by the time they’re in university, it may already be far too late.” She argued that there are hundreds of girls denied access to career paths they may have thrived in because “role models haven’t led the way”.

According to figures from the 2018 State of European Tech survey, 93% of all raised capital in the sector is given to all-male founding teams. 90% of respondents to the same survey indicated that having “diversity and inclusion” at the core of a business would improve its market performance.

“It’s been proven that multidimensional teams, of mixed gender, race and sexuality come out on top,” said panellist Angela Yore, managing director and co-founder of fintech communications agency SkyParlour. “It’s not just about talking to women, it’s about including both men and women in the discussion.”

Dunlop went further: “It’s not that men hold us back. I’m here today because of men, but I stepped forward and I took the risks. Just because we do a good job we should not expect things to be handed to us on a plate. As a woman, you need to have the courage to ask for it.”

The panel split over the issue of positive discrimination and “box-ticking”. Theresa Burton, CEO of crowdfunding platform Trillion Fund, argued that the industry needed something “we can measure”. “[Women] have to work so much harder because we don’t have 50/50 representation. Head hunters are lazy and won’t take the time to find a fair representation otherwise.”

Joanne Dewar, CEO at Global Processing Services, countered that positive discrimination “can undermine the efforts of women who have got into roles because they’ve been as good as the men they’ve come up against.” She argued that women need to challenge the unconscious bias in the selection process, rather than try and skew results.

SkyParlour’s Yore replied that “when men say they can’t have women on a board or in higher roles, I think it’s a load of tosh.” She cited the examples set by women in fintech events, which have attendances of “500 women at a time”. “The women are there,” she added. “But boards just aren’t looking for them.

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