If you’ve been lately paying attention to the fintech scene and its evolving trends, you might have already noticed a wind of change, fostering a culture of gender equality and diversity.

But where does it come from? How does fintech as an industry support women who aspire to a leadership role in an environment which looks like a sector founded for men, run by men? Why is it important that companies put more effort into bringing more diversity onboard? What role will fintech and the financial services industry play in making women part of the gender equation?

“The number of CEOs named ‘John’ is higher than the number of female CEOs overall”

– panellist quote during the 2015 Innovate Finance Global Summit included in McKinsey`s “Power Women in FinTech Index: Bridging the Gender Gap” whitepaper –

In recent years, the debate about the lack of women – and leadership opportunities – in this sector has got more and more traction and for a good reason. We keep hearing thought leaders and experts talk about fintech and its potential to disrupt the whole financial services industry and beyond. But truth be told, beyond all the technological potential and the innovation, the industry still scores low on gender diversity and inclusion. After all, we are talking about a sector which has been driven by technology (IT) and finance  – traditionally male-dominated domains.

All these aspects have got people sitting up and taking note. And to avoid the implicit (gender) bias that might be attributed to the author of this blog post, let’s take a short look at the numbers:

  • in the UK fintech space, women represent 29% of the workforce, despite 47% of the workforce overall being female. Furthermore, only 17% of women hold leadership positions (source: a 2017 study by EY and Innovate Finance);
  • the percentage of women executives in fintech is only 8% worldwide, as compared with 22% in the major banks;
  • looking at the companies listed for the Fintech50, out of 124 founders only 6 are women;
  • women account for just 15% of all listed inventors behind 9 million patent applications across 182 countries;
  • only 54% of women have access to senior level mentors;
  • just about 20% of medium and large firm managers worldwide and only 2% of bank CEOs are women. Interesting findings, given the fact that women account for half of the consumer base all the fintech products and services aim to reach.

No wonder why fintech has come under criticism for having a gender problem …

However, as gender-unbalanced as it may be, business is business. The reasons for the inherent lack of equality are various and do not constitute the topic of the present blog post. And to quote one of the most frequently used industry-specific lines: there is no silver bullet solution to this problem. So what do women do in order to change the bleak picture? Simple: they adopt a pro-active approach.

Key initiatives to keep an eye on

In recent years, industry-specific networking communities and organizations including Girls Who Code, Women in Payments, Women in Network Electronic Transaction and Women in Technology International have invested efforts in providing opportunities for women to share their experiences and connect with others, thus breaking the image of payments as a realm of male domination. And this is where the strongest echoes come from:

  • The European Women Payments Network (EWPN)

EWPN is a Pan-European network dedicated to bringing together women from EU/EEA member states, working in cards, fintech & payments. The community’s main objective is to create a professional and safe environment that encourages communication, trust, mentorship, leadership programmes, networking events and workshops.

EWPN is directly advocating for a more diverse and inclusive industry. More about the purpose and role of this network in the video below (video credits go to Vincent Everts):

And thank you Martha Mghendi-Fisher, EWPN & African Women in Fintech & Payments (AWFP), for sharing your thoughts below with our readers:

”The responsibility of fixing the issues in this industry is with everyone, not just management and senior executives. There are no better people than those working in the industry to suggest, find and implement solutions to fix these issues. They know the industry’s inside out, hence they are much better placed to offer tangible solutions. But we have to move away from just talking about the issues and start presenting solutions once and for all. The industry has no option than to follow suit and become more diverse. It’s no longer an option for them. If they don’t, then women, minorities and those underrepresented will build companies that cater for their needs. No demographic should be made to feel like beggars. We, at EWPN, hope to continue providing the platform for dialogues that will provide tangible solutions. We are very open to working, partnering and collaborating with organisations that can walk the talk and not view diversity as just another checklist item.”

  • The Rise Up program at Money 2020

In the light of the recent speeches delivered on the Money 2020 Las Vegas stage by key female industry leaders, Rise Up – a new accelerator program that helps ambitious women rise up within the financial services world is also worth mentioning. Here you can find an interview with Tracey Davies, Money 2020 President on the program mission and objectives.

Mind the gap! Does fintech have what it takes to close it?

Just like any new (or old)  kid on the tech block, fintech has an opportunity to show the entire industry its shortcomings and foster women empowerment. However, it is not the perfect solution for the gender gap in financial inclusion, since true equality will require change at so many levels.

Most importantly, it is great to see that efforts are certainly made in the right direction, that will help increase gender diversity in fintech today and tomorrow. A diversity which remains king (or, better said, queen), an essential ingredient to innovation.

So here’s to a better and more diverse tech industry for everyone!

Adriana Screpnic, Content Marketing Specialist, G2A PAY