A Female CEOs Perspective: Addressing Gender Inequality

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    Ways to address gender equality in FinTech: a female CEO’s perspective

    FinTech is often touted as a brave new world, combining an underrepresented finance sector with an underrepresented tech sector. However, this brave new world has a least one problem that 49.6 percent of the population are very familiar with.

    The ‘Power Women in FinTech’ paper revealed that, of the leading 50 EU FinTech companies, only 4.95 per cent of top executives were women and only 11.6 percent of CFOs in the Fortune 500 were female. 

    This alarming lack of women in C-level FinTech roles is indicative of the same pattern in the wider global banking sector. Around 33 per cent of the banking industry’s executive committees are all male while just 4 percent of women even obtain a CEO role.

    The problem countries below the C-suite, with women making up less than 30 percent of the UK’s FinTech workforce and a minority of the user base.

    Gender disparity is also a grass-roots issue. The average investment in FinTech start-ups led by men was more than double that of those led by women. A glance at the founders of companies selected for the FinTech 50 shows 118 men and just six women.

    Being a female CEO in a male-dominated industry can be tricky.

    I’ve been mistaken for an assistant. I’ve had staff, both men and women, second-guessing me and my skills more than my male counterparts. I’ve been perceived as bossy where male counterparts would have been called assertive.

    I’ve also had to deal with people attributing my actions to or perceiving my moods and emotions in a manner that just wouldn’t happen if I weren’t female.

    Despite this, I strongly believe that women are vital to the FinTech industry’s continued success and that FinTech is in the perfect position to become a champion for gender equality. 

    Women are vital to the FinTech industry’s continued success and that FinTech is in the perfect position to become a champion for gender equality.

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    With International Women's Day fast approaching, I’ll be discussing some of the ways FinTech can change from an example of the problem to a global leader in the solution

    The global nature of FinTech

    One of FinTech’s unique features is its global appeal and adoption. The industry was founded on the idea of being disruptive and providing services to those who had effectively been abandoned by traditional banks. Because of the focus on providing for under-served sections of the global population FinTech has developed a reputation as a great equaliser, introducing financial services to the estimated 2.5 billion people across the globe.

    The global reach and impact of FinTech cannot be underestimated. For example, in Kenya 70 per cent of the adult population uses M-Pesa. In China, BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent) control around 90 per cent of the Chinese mobile payments market. A market survey by EY indicated that 75 percent of customers surveyed across 27 global markets have used a FinTech transfer or payments service. The same survey indicated that Consumer awareness is at an all-time high of 96 per cent.

    FinTech companies play a critical role in the lives of people across the globe every day. That level of reach and influence is what makes the FinTech industry uniquely suited to spearheading the push for gender equality on the global stage.

    How FinTech can address its gender equality issues

    True gender equality is an elusive concept, but many businesses have already started pushing for an equal playing field between the sexes. Unfortunately, many companies approach the development of gender equality by pushing in the wrong direction or are simply unsure of how best to go about it.

    There are, however, some simple steps that FinTech companies can take to address gender disparity.

    Picture of women as a super hero on a mountain-80

    1. Start with the basics on remuneration and funding

    The gender pay gap in the UK’s top fintech companies is around 30 per cent. The driving force behind this significant pay gap is the fact that two-thirds of those who benefit from it don’t believe that diversity initiatives have a positive business impact. Closing that pay gap is the obvious first step in creating gender equality in FinTech. The ideal of offering equal pay for equal work should not be a controversial idea. 

    The same rule needs to be applied to the funding offered to FinTech startups. According to Innovate Finance, only 3% of the £1.7 billion in venture funding invested in the UK in 2018 went to companies with at least one female founder. The lack of women in C-suite positions at FinTech companies also needs to be addressed in order to provide female STEM graduates with female role models within the industry.

    When it comes to work environments, businesses have promoted ping pong tables and onsite bars and beer on tap. Perhaps we should be looking, rather, at creating onsite creches and nurseries, for instance. This is difficult for startups in particular with limited cash flow, dependency on investor funds and shared office spaces. However, the ideas could come from the shared office spaces to begin with. 

    When it comes to work environments, businesses have promoted ping pong tables and onsite bars and beer on tap. Perhaps we should be looking, rather, at creating onsite creches and nurseries, for instance.

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    2. Ensure all staff hired embrace gender equality

    If you want a company culture that celebrates and embraces true gender equality, then you need to hire employees that have core values consistent with this value. Unfortunately, there is no easy third-party assessment tool or data-driven scale to judge new employees on their adherence to your core values. It’s down to effective hiring practices and gut feelings or instincts. Hiring managers need to use good old-fashioned interviewing techniques to have a verbal conversation with the prospective employee to see if they have, not just the right skills, but the right values, to join the company.

    From my experience, there is just no foolproof way to do this. Many people know all too well how to interview, and it’s frequently under work pressure or stress that the unconscious bias is revealed or evidenced. 

    There are also misconceptions about what gender equality means. To me, gender is not about creating an image of equality by ensuring, for instance, that there are as many women as men at an event. Quite unrealistic in FinTech. To me, it’s about how we treat women, as equals, with respect and dignity. In my career, I’ve seen many occasions where women were degraded or bullied by men (and other women!) who set an image of supporting gender equality, on paper, but “doing the right things”. 

    3. Discuss gender equality openly

    To be effective, an inclusive culture needs to be built into the roots of a company. Diversity and inclusivity need to be defined as two equally important values. Education is key here. 

    Most people are pro the idea of greater diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. However, it is a mistake to believe that people understand diversity’s benefits and give them tools to implement it. Staff need to be educated on the benefits of diversity and how their everyday actions can help promote it. 

    4. Encourage development at all levels

    The statistics we’ve quoted above are an excellent example of how women’s role in FinTech needs to be developed at all levels, from the C-suite right the way through the user base. Creating and espousing a culture of diversity will attract more women into the workforce at all levels.

    Picture of young girl dressed as a super hero-805. Lead by example

    Since only 4.95 per cent of top executives in FinTech are women, the remaining 95.5 percent of male executives need to lead by example in creating a more inclusive and diverse workplace that openly values women.

    As a leader, I want everyone who works with me to thrive equally. I have made it a common practice to mentor, promote, and develop women. I have never asked a woman to do anything that would demoralize her self-worth. I try to encourage women to speak up and make a point to actively listen when they do. 

    Until we all show up as true promoters and champions of each other, we cannot call ourselves supporters of other women. 

    6. Offer training on the unconscious gender bias

    The foundation of an unconscious bias is that the person is not aware of their own prejudices. However, these prejudices still lead them to make non-fact-based decisions that negatively impact their co-workers.

    Unconscious gender bias training gives staff the opportunity to uncover and resolve prejudices, preventing gender bias from being built into the recruitment processes, performance management systems, and leadership development programs.

    7. Challenge your own beliefs

    Most people have general beliefs about those who are different from themselves. It's easier to make judgements about groups than about individuals. That's because it requires less mental energy.

    But general judgements often become assumptions and that's where most prejudice comes from. Assessing and challenging your own assumptions is an essential part of eliminating bias on the basis of gender, race, religion, and a whole host of other factors that are often the basis for negative stereotypes.

    8. Encourage women to support each other

    With women representing a disproportionate minority in the FinTech industry, it is more important than ever for women to provide support and leadership for others in the industry. There are already a number of women’s networks and female advisory boards in companies like Thomson Reuters and Essentia. However, these organisations need to be expanded so they can support a pipeline of female talent into the industry.

    We spend a lot of time showing women empowering other women, but you know what? That’s not always been my experience. Over the course of my career, I encountered women who were in senior positions above me who actively sought to repress my ideas and take credit for my contributions. Being in senior roles, I’ve also experienced women taking guidance and direction from my male counterparts over my own. I’ve had women second guess my claims, yet believe them when they were repeated by male colleagues. 

    As women, we need to start sharing our collective experiences and demanding better treatment from one another. And most importantly, we must self-reflect to ensure we don’t do the same. 

    Playing a leading role in gender diversity

    Despite its current issues with gender disparity, FinTech as an industry has the opportunity to implement an innovative and open-minded corporate culture that openly values diversity and inclusivity.

    From there, those openly expressed values can filter down to the sector’s billions of employees and customers worldwide, encouraging more women into the industry and promoting the global cause of gender equality.

    At Chaser, we are celebrating International Women’s day by taking part in the #ChooseToChallenge campaign and our employees have been actively sharing why they choose to challenge.


    Lets all choose to challenge-Chaser womens day@0.75x-80



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