Veronica Melendez, Head of Payments at Recharge.com, says the ongoing diversity challenges and opportunities in fintech can be solved if we all play a role in levelling the playing field and building an ecosystem that reflects the audience it serves.
There’s no denying that diversity builds stronger businesses and is a source of competitive advantage. Yet this is something the fintech space, with its innovations, impassioned entrepreneurs and blockbuster funding rounds, has yet to truly crack. Especially when it comes to retaining and accelerating women and their careers.
For all the great work in recognising our contributions through power lists, diversity awards and global networking events, there’s still room to fill at the top. Women currently make up less than 20 per cent of global fintech executives, even though data reaffirms that diversity and inclusion in senior leadership is good for business and is a force for good.
These statistics are all the starker when looking at investment. Research published by Innovate Finance shows that female-founded fintechs accounted for 17 per cent of the UK’s total fintech venture capital (VC) investments over 2020, an improvement of 6 per cent from the previous year.
So how do we get more women into the fintech space and ensure their career accelerates all the way to the top and doesn’t hit a glass ceiling?
There is no universal solution. Some of the women who have made it to senior level have contrasting views. Looking directly at leadership, Dora Ziambra, COO at Azimo, emphasises the importance of teamwork. “Fintech leaders need to start acknowledging personal shortfalls when building a team that requires multiple skills and a diverse mindset.”
This view is echoed by Racha Sibai, VP of Strategy and Business at Wahed, who notes the importance of the external and internal support she received when shaping her career. “Getting involved, learning to share insights and trying to meet and connect with people can be quite critical.”
Another potential solution is having more women at the forefront of building financial products. Ziambra acknowledges the opportunity that women in fintech have in tailoring diverse products that reflect the world today. “As women represent 50 per cent of the population and potential fintech users, we need to be focusing on how women can build unique financial products.”
Jane Loginova, CEO of Radar Payments, also advocates for better products aimed at women. “We are underserved in the financial services industry partially due to unconscious bias and a lack of understanding of their global purchasing power.” Loginova also notes that current biases hold back women in adapting to technology. “Fintechs at large would benefit from companies harnessing data in order to add value to the women’s market which is currently underserved.”
Addressing pitfalls in the current talent pipeline also appears as another solution suggested by senior leaders. Sibai acknowledges the importance of embracing diversity to eliminate barriers in technology. Looking at the broader talent pipeline, Sibai advocates for more work to be done in encouraging girls to get into coding as a good stepping stone to begin their careers (some which don’t currently exist). “We live in a continuously evolving world and we cannot anticipate where the next opportunity is going to be.”
Sibai also highlights the crucial role of having a support system when going through periods of growth and uncertainty. A recent TrustRadius 2021 Women in Tech Report suggests that 57 per cent of women within tech felt burnt out at work during the COVID-era in contrast with just 36 per cent of men.
Others have stressed the importance of dispelling current assumptions around knowledge gaps. Jenny Kong, Global Head of Marketing at Wirex notes certain perceptions needed to be shifted. “Contrary to popular belief, you don’t necessarily have to be “tech-savvy” to secure a role in crypto.” Kong also advocates for a culture of real internal pushes to make solid changes. “Actively promote your inclusion and culture-led initiatives, with clear business goals.”
While there has been some progress within the fintech space in recent years, prominent voices have also noted continued barriers in terms of access and development. This is why programmes like the RiseUp at Money20/20 is crucial as it enables women to unlock the next step in their career journeys and provides a solid foundation to develop leadership skills and confidence.
Similarly, the European Women Payments Network (EWPN) has provided an opportunity for women to network with peers across Europe and provides a platform to celebrate achievements and milestones. The Women in FinTech initiative by Innovate Finance also hosts a forum for UK-based women to receive some basis of mentoring in their career journey.
There is no doubt about the positive impact women have made in the fintech space and the growing need for initiatives to support growth, challenge preconceptions around skills, and build companies that embrace diversity within its foundation. We can all play a role in levelling the playing field and build an ecosystem that reflects the audience it serves.