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Gender diversity in fintech: Are woman leaders an uncommon sight?

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The fact that women are under-represented in the fintech user base, employment base and leadership roles does not receive enough attention, shares Jennifer Locker, Chief Marketing Officer, Accuity, and Neela Das, Head of Innovation, Accuity.

When we speak about financial technology (fintech), we often associate the term with technological innovations in payments or personal finance management. We are not wrong. However, the term fintech encompasses much more than that. For example, regulatory technology (regtech), which is generally considered a subset of fintech, does not receive the same attention. In fact, regtech applications keep our financial systems safe and ensure that criminals cannot easily launder money or finance terrorism. These applications are even being adopted to screen transactions made beyond banking and finance, such as in shipping and air cargo.

When we talk about gender diversity in fintech – or regtech, we think about the commonly reported problem that too few women work in fintech companies, or that too few fintech companies have a reasonable number of female leaders. The fact that women are under-represented in the fintech user base does not receive enough attention as well.

The same way no one intended for public consciousnesses of fintech to omit regtech, no one intended for the lack of awareness over fintech’s full gender diversity issue. Improving the status quo will not only move the needle within the sector and enhance how relevant solutions are designed and executed, but it would also greatly benefit our wider society.

Unequal numbers of job applications from men and women

Fintech companies often say that they do not receive an equal number of job applications from each gender group and that the employees that they end up hiring reflect the pool of applicants. In this instance, it’s crucial that companies consider why so few women want to work for the company. Some recommendations to address this include over-indexing on female hires – relative to applications or having women-only shortlists as a business-critical priority. This needs to be fuelled by the belief that having the best team to innovate demands diversity.

At Accuity, for example, our hiring teams understand that a job posting is much more than a solicitation for applications. It is the company’s golden opportunity to establish a strong first impression for potential employees. As a company that values diversity and embraces a culture of empowerment, Accuity encourages managers to think about the language used in our job postings.

According to LinkedIn’s Language Matters Report, inclusive vernacular adopted in job descriptions is more likely to attract gender-diverse candidates. This does not mean that tactical skills like “analyse” are not important, but for some potential candidates, knowing that they are working as a part of a team are equally pivotal. If relevant to the role, ensuring that words like “collaboration” are included can help make job postings more welcoming.

Our global workforce is 55% male and 45% female, 62% male and 38% female in top senior leadership roles.

Female leaders an uncommon sight?

The second gender imbalance in fintech relates to senior team representation. On a positive note, however, the gap between the number of senior appointments for men and women is narrowing. According to the 2019 Credit Suisse Gender 3000 report, the proportion of female board members in the Asia Pacific region increased from 11.6% in 2015 to 14.4% in 2019. Likewise, in an interview with CNBC, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon announced that the bank will no longer advise on IPOs of companies that do not have a minimum of one woman on their board.

At Accuity, we are well on our way toward closing the gap between the number of female and male leaders. Our global workforce is 55% male and 45% female, 62% male and 38% female in top senior leadership roles. We remain committed to promoting and enabling equal opportunity, regardless of gender, at every level in our organisation.

While these developments are encouraging, we must cautiously acknowledge that such initiatives do not imply that women are in any way superior or more important than men. What is paramount is to work toward a culture of gender balance where every individual can be authentic in their leadership approach.

Feeling like you belong is much more challenging when you consider yourself in any type of minority, whether that’s a demographic group or a working style preference. Companies have a responsibility to help employees feel included, psychologically safe and valued at work.

That said, there is still much more progress to be made. When it comes to companies that aim to combat financial crime, the inherent perception is that the leadership teams of these companies are very much male dominant. But this is changing with more women representatives in leadership roles in RegTech companies.

Unlocking greater diversity by understanding the needs of the user base

It is key to understand more about whether the issue of gender diversity in fintech employment and leadership is also reflected in its user base. According to a survey conducted by Boston Consulting Group, women worldwide are reported to feel the most dissatisfied with the financial services industry, both at the product and service levels. If fintech companies can generate new revenue streams by creating innovative problem-solving toolkits for financial problems, the female factor should be relatively significant and represents an untapped market.

Companies who are on a mission to shift the world’s perception of a male-centric fintech world need to be sure that they are building products and services that advance the ways in which women contribute to and access financial services. We need to know that there is no immediate solution and we will need to apply the same continuous test and learn principles to address gender diversity, as we do with our solutions.

At Accuity, diversity is highly valued and of high value. It has brought in new ideas, fostered a culture of innovation, and helped the company understand different perspectives to better serve the industry. In light of this year’s International Women’s Day, the theme #EachforEqual serves as a reminder for our company to continue doubling down on the relevant issues above, and to think creatively about how we can empower our female counterparts regionally and globally to progress toward a gender-equal world. Together, we can be #EachforEqual.

Photo / (L-R) Jennifer Locker and Neela Das, Accuity

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