By Ashley Nagle Eknaian
It’s no secret that women in both banking and technology tend to be in the minority. When you combine those two fields into the phenomenon that is FinTech, “super minority” becomes a more accurate label. In recent years, organizations like Girls Who Code and Girls Who Invest have made a tremendous effort to encourage young women to take an interest and pursue careers in STEM fields. Supporting and championing these types of programs are vital to create meaningful change for the gender gap in the coming decades. However, we also need solutions that can benefit women currently in the workforce. Here are five things that can help increase gender diversity in FinTech today:
1. Show woMEn the money. Startups with at least one female founder received only 10 percent of all venture investment from 2010-2015 . Attracting more capital to startups with at least one female founder isn’t about equal opportunity. It’s about funding scalable, profitable businesses that research shows post greater returns for their investors over time. For investors out there looking for the next unicorn, women-powered startups are an underrepresented resource for potentially big ideas.
2. Welcome aBoard! Currently, women make up only 8 percent of FinTech directors globally. However, studies indicate that diverse teams perform better and deliver stronger financial outcomes. Different backgrounds, cultures, experiences, etc., are what inform our own unique perspectives on the world. Collectively harnessing the power of “different” by forming diverse teams promotes an environment of professional challenge and diversity of thought. If you are a founder looking for advisors, or a board member with no female counterparts, consider the power of “different” and make a difference by adding female board members.
3. Help wanted. Managers tend to hire people with similar backgrounds, which can lead to homogeneous teams. If you are hiring, make sure you have a diverse (including both male and female) pool of candidates for any open positions. There are some fabulous companies/technologies out there that can help hiring teams mask demographic data at all stages of the recruiting process to level the playing field for both gender and ethnicity. Fun fact: In 1952, the Boston Symphony Orchestra pioneered the idea of blind auditions (performing behind a screen) to mask the identity of performers. It took decades, however, these types of auditions were instrumental (pun intended) in increasing the number of female orchestra performers by 30 percent.
4. Pay it forward. According to a recent study, only 54 percent of women have access to senior level mentors. If you have been successful in finance, technology and/or FinTech, mentorship is a great way to support others who are still climbing their way up. Be the mentor that you needed early in your career, share your experiences, and encourage future women leaders to break down barriers standing in their way. This isn’t just a one-way street either; reverse mentoring is a great way for leaders to keep pace with a multi-generational workforce, changing consumer expectations and the latest tech trends.
5. Mind the gap! Address the issue head on – there is a gender diversity gap in FinTech, and we cannot overcome this challenge unless we have real conversations with one another. Talk about it, talk with colleagues, peers, managers, investors, advisors, founders, mentors, and mentees. Share fears, concerns, goals, and aspirations. Ask questions and discuss things you can do to make a change (maybe starting with items 1-4 on this list). There isn’t a simple answer or a one-size-fits-all approach. The only guarantee we have, however, is that if we do nothing, we’ll make zero progress.
Ashley Nagle Eknaian is the program chair of the MS in Digital Innovation for FinTech at Brandeis GPS.