I was incredibly proud to have been named one of the Top 100 women in fintech by fintech
Magazine recently. It was brilliant to see the incredible women I was listed with who have
worked so hard to disrupt the market and make a hugely positive impact on the industry. It
also triggered some other thoughts I had about why we tend to see a disproportionate
amount of women in this sector.
A study last year revealed that less than 30% of the UK's fintech workforce was female. The
same study also found that whilst less than 30% of the fintech workforce is female, only 17%
of senior fintech roles are held by women.
A traditional banking workforce can confidently understand their gender and ethnicity pay
gap without too much problem, but a fintech on the other hand may struggle due to
educational opportunities around STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics)
and attitudes towards gender bias. Traditional banks will have a mixture of expertise that
attract a diverse pool of talent from marketing to customer service, relationship management
and back end technical workers. But fintechs see more of a split of a general banking
workforce vs a much higher proportion of technological workers including; gamers,
developers and operational teams which is generally a more male dominated environment.
By representing and serving women, fintechs have the opportunity to bridge the gender gap
in investment, retirement, and economic status. The case for change is clear, but gender
imbalance in fintech is still quite evident. fintechs can lead the way and become a beacon of
accomplishment for other businesses, from startups to big global enterprises, in financial
services and beyond.
The Treasury Select Committee launched an inquiry in 2017 into the barriers women face
within the financial services industry. Initiatives like this are vitally important as there is a
clear need to understand and tackle the challenges of finding diverse talent in financial
services and the barriers which prevent women from setting up their own businesses or
progressing to senior levels within companies. fintech is a highly skilled sector, driven by
people that understand the gaps in the financial market. Such understanding and knowledge
often comes from having experience at a senior level in finance and most of those positions
are still filled by men.
Juggling family and work life puts intense pressure on female entrepreneurs who often prefer
more certainty of hours compared to a start-up culture with longer hours, anti-social work
patterns and associated stress. Businesses need to understand this and offer flexibility
where they can – not just to women but to men as well.
Then there’s the issue of STEM skill shortages among young women, which is often vital to
entering the fintech sector. Although coding is now included in the UK’s computing
curriculum which helps children leave school prepared for life in a digital economy, gender
gaps still persist. STEM education is a massive factor in influencing younger people from all
walks of life to develop their knowledge of these key sectors of Science, Technology,
Engineering, Mathematics and even Arts (STEAM).
It has taken an enormous amount of hard work for incumbent financial institutions to start to
embed inclusion and diversity within their recruitment processes and policies. fintechs can
learn from this to really push for the change – from proactively seeking more women
candidates to apply for jobs, scrutinising the impact of interview processes and the way job
descriptions are written, creating flexible family policies, and setting explicit targets and
measuring against them.
As new businesses are built and grow, so do new cultures. From the outset at Loqbox, we
have developed opportunities to create an inclusive culture that is open and respectful and
that values diversity. This has come from the leadership and direction of our Co-Founders
and Co-CEOs Tom Eyre and Gregor Mowat, but is also a business wide expectation set
around accepted behaviors and treating our entire team with equal opportunities and
encouraging everyone to be the best they can be.
However, for the more established fintechs, change will mean taking the time to really
understand their own culture in the business by talking to colleagues and new members of
staff. It is this insight that can be used to identify the problems and their root causes and
start to shift the way fintechs adopt these core diversity and inclusion approaches.