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Four ways for fintech to break the glass ceiling

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According to the most recent Fintech Diversity Radar research, women make up just 11% of all financial technology board members and 19% of company executives. But how can the industry work to stem this tide?

Before we unpick the solutions to this challenge, it is important to recognise the trends that have been carried over from the finance and tech industries respectively and continue to impact the new hybrid fintech world. Here are just a few statistics that demonstrate this:

The distinct lack of female representation in management throughout both industries has carried over and as a result, fintech boards are not the emerging, progressive forefront of representation that they could be. Reversing this tide is possible though. In this blog launched to commemorate International Women’s Day 2022, we examine four ways that fintech can strive towards gender equality in the boardroom to break the glass ceiling.

1. Promote the industry to women from an early stage of their careers

It is important to encourage females to want a career in fintech as early as possible thereby encouraging them to want to stay in industry and progress towards a leadership role over time. The signs for this are slowly becoming more encouraging with the percentage of female workers in the finance industry rising to 43% and technology increasing to the 31% mark.

Staging recruitment events for young women is a good start. Studies show that at the stage where they first begin making decisions about their career, women are half as likely to consider a career in technology as their male counterparts. By working collectively to promote the industry in universities and colleges, companies can ensure that women know exactly what they can bring to an industry that is severely lacking without them and go on to take a boardroom role later on in their professional lives.

2. Optimise workspaces and culture for mothers

Returning to work after having a child can be daunting and perceived as a barrier. It is therefore imperative that fintech employers work towards creating an environment where women feel secure and not as something that will delay their professional ambition. Employers must demonstrate their changing attitudes to offer reassurances to women that they will work with them to make pregnancy manageable, policies that offer maternity leave that will help mothers bond with their babies without worry, and a general compassionate feel to the time that a new mother is away from the company to look after their new-born. There are many positive strides being made in this area and fintech must continue to focus on compassion in their employee offerings to help encourage more female representation across their companies – and indeed the boardroom.

This should also include mothers who are sole carers – women make up 90% of single parents in the UK, meaning that the burden of childcare disproportionately falls on them. Support for mothers in the form of childcare subsidies, as well as office nurseries and breastfeeding rooms would allow more women to take a modern, dynamic approach to caring for their children and empower them as they balance motherhood with their careers.

3. Harness positive action techniques where appropriate

A clause in the UK Equality Act 2010 gives employers the ability to implement a ‘tie-break’ when two candidates are equally qualified for a role based on a protected characteristic that is underrepresented in the field. Gender is one of those protected characteristics. Where appropriate and the interview notes need a determining factor, fintech companies could harness this as a way to embed greater diversity in the boardroom without any undue prejudice.

It is worth pointing out here that women consistently score higher in emotional intelligence (EQ) than men when all variables are controlled for, and this is why having a gender-balanced approach to hiring has shown time and again to improve the dynamics within a company.

4. Help employees to recognise bias

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there needs to be more awareness of the role played by unconscious bias. When everyone in a company is traditionally male, people in the industry fall into the trap of thinking that jobs are best filled by a certain type of person. This is reflected in the hesitancy of firms to appoint women to executive levels – women represent just 14% of fintech boards overall. Firms have a duty to ensure that employees are aware of their own shortcomings and can properly assess someone’s suitability to a role without falling victim to unconscious bias. This can be achieved through open discussion with women already working in fintech, as well as training across all levels of companies in order to support better understanding.

Leaders across the field must look introspectively, as well as at company practices as a whole, if the issue is to be rectified. Hopefully these four tips help you consider how you can bring more female representation to your boardrooms moving forwards.

At Trust Payments, we recently boosted the female presence in our own leadership team with Eleanor Sheppard joining as Group Head of Marketing & Communication and Ursula White as Director of Global Client Support & Digital Transformation. This International Women’s Day, we want to celebrate the contributions of women across fintech, as well as support change and visibility. Take a look at our post highlighting the inspiring thoughts of just some seven influential women from across the Trust Payments organisation here.

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