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Published on: February 13, 2020
Why FinTech needs more women at the top
On the highest rung of the UK corporate ladder, you’re more likely to be called David or Steve than be a woman. Here’s why that’s got to change.
This month, the Hampton-Alexander review found 349 women currently sit on boards at FTSE 100 firms. The government said the review’s “fantastic work” had seen it hit the target almost a year early. However, the review also highlighted a lack of women in senior and executive roles – making up 15% of finance directors. Clearly, there is still a vast amount of work to be done on gender parity.
Indeed, this lack of diversity is hindering the UK’s economy: McKinsey research has found that gender inequality is a “critical economic challenge”. The research is clear: firms with diverse boards and management teams make better decisions, drive innovation and outperform their peers.
To get more women in the top jobs and strive for gender equality generally, there are five important things companies can do:
Recognise that there’s a problem
Whilst the headlines attest to there being more women in FTSE 100 boardrooms, there are still very few female CEOs at Britain’s biggest. As of February 2020, there are just five women CEOs of FTSE 100 firms. Indeed, at the top of the UK’s corporate ladder you are more likely to be called David or Steve than be a woman.
In the young and disruptive FinTech sector, meanwhile, the situation is even worse. An Innovate Finance study last year revealed that less than 30% of the UK’s FinTech workforce was female and only 17% of senior FinTech roles were held by women. The picture deteriorates further when you look closer: a run-through of the founders of companies selected for the FinTech 50 reveals 118 men and just six women. That’s just over 5%.
Whether we’ll admit it or not, FinTech remains a male dominated industry. Clearly, this inequality needs to be recognised and addressed.
Make women at the top visible to attract talent
The first step toward solving the problem and attracting more women is actively filling the top positions with women. The start-up world is typically dominated by male founders, so having strong female role models and involving them in the recruitment process is more likely to attract female applicants. Companies that clearly demonstrate that women are a valued part of their organisation will attract the best female talent – and retain it.
Women need mentors
An executive survey by Korn Ferry showed that to be successful in developing women and diverse employees, companies must focus not only on attracting them to the company, but also be diligent about retaining them. Mentoring is an effective way of building relationships while discussing challenges and opportunities for advancement.
Outside of the topic of work, mentoring can be a space to discuss balancing a career and family life. Done well, it provides a safe environment where young women can explore these challenges with someone, be they male or female, who has managed it successfully themselves. Through mentoring, those in an earlier stage of their careers can better relate with those in leadership roles; companies that invest in their female employees through this sort of programme will retain more talent as women feel more valued and stay for the longer haul.
Flexible working practices help retain female talent
Juggling work with family life is a tough reality for many women. Whilst careful planning and good advice can help, once children arrive, life does change. The demands of the school run and caring for sick children comes head to head with women’s commitment to their careers.
Companies can support their female talent by promoting flexible working arrangements, for example, promoting policies for working from home or part time. This way, work life and family life can be meshed together, minimising the disruption and exhaustion of a long commute on top of everything else. In terms of maternity leave, many women have voiced their desire to ease themselves back into the working world, perhaps working a morning a week and two afternoons a week from home.
To meet these demands, HR departments need to be more creative with their solutions for young families; good communication before, during and after the baby is born will ensure both parties know what arrangement works best, rather than assuming a default position.
Teach girls to love tech
Part of the gender disparity problem in FinTech comes back to the challenge of getting females into STEM related studies, which provide the skills needed to start a career. Women are still underrepresented in engineering, tech and computer science related degrees, which presents a problem for FinTech as there are fewer women in the pipeline pursuing a tech career. Computer science, for example, still sees a relatively low percentage of female graduates. From 2015 to 2018, it has dipped from 16% to 15%, and has since remained unchanged.
Globacap is currently 23% female – on par with the industry average – and we’re actively working to increase this. But while quotas are worthwhile endeavours, the most important thing is for companies to actively broadcast the skills of their female tech talent and inspire the next generation of girls. At Globacap, we do exactly that. We shout about our women to try to inspire their younger counterparts to fall in love with tech and achieve what our employees have achieved.
Teaching girls to love tech should be no hard task, and visibility at the top is the best way to inspire. A good start has been made in the industry with initiatives like the Tech She Can Charter (of which we are a proud sponsor), however, there remains a long road ahead.