Women in Fintech

13/10/2015

Lizzy Chesters, Corporate

Equalising the gender imbalance in the UK fintech sector

Women in Fintech

The UK’s fintech sector is booming.

Investment in the sector grew by 136%, from $264m in 2013 to $623m in 2014.

Unfortunately the gender imbalance in fintech is following a similar pattern to that of the traditional finance and technology industries: women are under-represented, not just in leadership roles but throughout the entire sector. There is only one female CEO in the top 50 EU fintech companies.

Why aren’t there more women in fintech?

In part, the problem may be attributed to the fact that only one in 20 applicants for jobs in IT is female. A small number of females study the relevant subjects at University and few actually enter the sector.

Sadly, 40% of women with engineering degrees will never embark on work in the tech sector, or will leave prematurely.

Fintech is a male dominated sector. This deters a large number of women because they are wary of being a minority and feeling isolated in their daily working environment.

Why do we need women in fintech?

The role of women in society is equal to that of men. Without the input of women in the fintech sector, the needs of all potential users will not be met.

Women control $20 trillion of global household spending and 70% of consumers are female. However, these figures are not reflected in business as a whole. The number of female entrepreneurs in fintech accelerators only just reaches 17%. To ensure equality, this figure must be tripled.

Claire Cockerton, CEO of Innovate Finance recently said,

“Women make better investment decisions generally and will learn to adopt fintech or use fintech innovations in a really productive way. It’s essential that women are involved in the design, in the packaging, in the usability of fintech products.”

There are countless benefits of gender diversity in the workplace. It has been proved to be beneficial for work productivity, creativity, and success: three extremely important factors, not just for fintech, but business in general.

A report by the Kauffman Foundation found that women-led private technology companies are more capital-efficient, achieving 35% higher return on investment, and, when venture-backed, bring in 12% higher revenue than male-owned tech companies. More women in fintech can only benefit the sector.

By discouraging women from working in fintech we are underutilising an important resource. And this lack will only be exaggerated by our ageing population – to maintain economic growth, we must bring women into fintech.

What can be done to bring more women into fintech?

Fintech is a young sector: there is time and flexibility for women to become involved in its evolution.

Gender inequality is increasingly becoming a part of our social conversation. Consequently, the number of women in the Boardroom is growing. Although Boardroom quotas have not been introduced in the UK, there are various organisations and policies, for example, the Women’s Business Council, which aim to equalise men and women’s participation in business.

In a recent Innotribe study, the following ways were identified to attract more women into fintech:

  • Address the gender issue head on
  • Implement family-friendly policies
  • Measure success
  • Mentoring - at the moment there is a lack of female role models so nobody for the younger generation of girls to aspire to. There must be an increase in women in fintech to encourage young girls into the industry: with such a small number of senior women in fintech there aren’t currently enough mentors to go around.
  • Promoting female success in fintech

In addition to these strategies, the recently updated IT curriculum - making the subject more current and relevant - will encourage more girls to consider a career in IT in the future.

In conclusion

Perhaps many women choose not to enter technology sectors for fear of having to choose between children and career. But this is a misconception.

For example, Marissa Mayer – the CEO of Yahoo! - has managed to balance work life with being a mother. We need more women in every level of business to show that working hard and also having children is doable. This could be demonstrated by establishing suitable work-place childcare schemes.

Lastly, there is an ingrained cultural perception that technology is a masculine industry. This message, perpetuated by schools and media, must be disbanded. We must encourage girls from a young age to work in technology sectors.

To inspire women to enter fintech we must initiate a cultural and social shift, one that comes from a variety of sources at every level of business. The recent appointment of Eileen Burbidge as Chair of Tech City UK is encouraging.

But we must increase our efforts to balance male/female presence in fintech before - as is the case in the US - we create a technology sector that is deeply misogynistic. 


 

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