Fintech is facing diversity challenges – but there are reasons to be optimistic
Fintech has elbowed its way to the forefront of modern finance, and its growth shows no sign of slowing.
By the end of the first half of 2021, there were already 24% more fintech start-ups than in the whole of 2020, and by 2026, the global fintech sector is expected to be worth $324 billion. This growth brings with it a greater opportunity to affect positive change not just in financial services, but throughout the world.
The fintech industry has undergone some positive progress around diversity in recent years, however more work is needed before we can call fintech a truly inclusive industry. To achieve inclusivity, we must understand the different capacities and wider issues of diversity. This in turn will allow us to deliver more relevant and sustainable fintech solutions.
Systemic change requires every person throughout the hierarchy of a company to play a part in introducing and creating an inclusive environment that resonates at every level. A huge part in figuring out inclusion and diversity is to be in listening mode when speaking with stakeholders both internally and externally, including employees, investors, partners and customers.
The path to true diversity
As the MD of a European fintech, and someone who has worked in the sector for more than a decade, I have noticed the industry change its perspective on diversity. From the launch of media grabbing campaigns on inclusion, to coverage of industry powerlists that celebrate success from all walks of life and even technological advances that have helped remove relatively simple challenges such as language barriers, it’s clear that diversity and inclusion are top of the agenda for the sector.
There’s also another reason that gives fintech cause to be quietly confident – it is emerging as a sector within which women can and are making a real impact.
Financial services have long been perceived as a male-dominated sector, but within fintech, women are more visible than they have ever been. Today, almost 30% of the UK fintech workforce is female. As we move towards gender equal representation, however, seeing more women in prominent senior roles will be crucial. Only 17% of senior roles in fintech are held by women, and only 12% of founders are female, though both these numbers are steadily growing.
What’s crucial to understand here is that, while we work in a progressive sector underpinned by strong female leaders, women are still under-represented in fintech. To claim otherwise would be to contradict factual evidence.
This continued dominance of men in fintech (especially in senior positions) is often put down to the lack of job applications from women. However, the fact that there are fewer females with the STEM qualifications required for most fintech roles (only 13% of candidates taking these studies are female) suggests the problem goes much deeper. So what can be done to address the balance?
Working towards change
For the industry to achieve true inclusivity, educators, public organisations and private firms have to work together to hire and empower more female role models in the industry.
The fact that there’s a dearth of suitable female candidates with the correct STEM qualifications speaks to a greater need for better education and inspiration in this space, with teachers and higher education professionals coming together to encourage more young female talent into the industry.
Fintechs can support this drive with more progressive attitudes when it comes to recruitment. Some firms have taken to doubling finder’s fees for employees that recommend a successful female job candidate, while others are reviewing job descriptions to ensure the language appeals to female applicants.
The bright and diverse future of fintech
Implementing diversity within a company culture is one thing on paper, but seeing those principles through to go-to-market, delivery and customer success requires a significant investment of time, money and resources.
With multiple studies proving the long-term benefits of fostering a diverse workplace (some figures even suggest productivity increases by 67% in an inclusive working environment), it stands to reason that business leaders who champion diversity now will not only help promote social good, but also see long-term commercial benefits.
Putting in place the initiatives highlighted above, coupled with improving networking access and visibility of female professionals, will lead to change. That change may be gradual – a bit too gradual for some – but it will happen.
The key takeaway for any woman considering a career in fintech is to go for it. Yes, there’s work to be done on forging greater equality, but as with solutions to COVID-19 and Brexit, work is underway and solutions exist. The point is, the sector wants you and you will find yourself both welcomed and valued – as I have myself!
About the author
Lili Metodieva is MD at Monneo. Prior to joining Monneo, she served as general manager Europe and operations advisor at Oceanpayment and head of operations at ECP.
Lili studied at the University of World and National Economy in Sofia, Bulgaria, gaining a master’s degree in commerce.