We are part of an industry that questions the status quo and wants to be recognised as ground-breaking. Everyone talks about the fresh dynamism sweeping the financial sector, the melting pot of new ideas pushing innovation to the forefront. But given that our sector is fundamentally built around disruption and positive change, should we not also be reflecting this in our workplaces and the way we collaborate with each other? The key to a successful and fulfilling corporate environment surely depends on inclusion, and leveraging the talent and input of all segments of society.
The recent International Women’s Day told us to #beboldforchange. It is true we are trying to build a better financial world on many fronts but we also need the social, cultural and political will to accompany this and cultivate, embrace and encourage genuine diversity at all levels. Nobody should be paying lip service to this any longer – we are at a stage in our evolution where we can remove all the stigmas of the past, all the barriers, glass ceilings and prejudices that have defined (and held back) certain industries.
Real diversity places total inclusion at its heart because in the modern world, where news, events, opinions and abuses can be transmitted around the globe in seconds, any regime, organisation or practice that discriminates, dismisses or diminishes is destined for failure and, ultimately, exclusion.
The fintech sector, for all its excitement and potential, is no exception. The path to success is in the organisational constructs we define. While there may be many women working within fintech, what is eye-opening is that the sector is, to some extent, repeating the patterns of old, traditional companies established and dominated by a single gender and cookie-cutter professionals. Case in point: Innovate Finance, the UK trade association representing global fintech, recently disclosed that of their 200 member institutions, just 21 have been founded by a woman.
Of course, this could be incidental but less than 5% of senior executives at the top 50 EU fintech companies are female – and numbers don’t lie. The diversity gap is real and increasingly people are recognising that, in a time when the old order is being redefined, diversity – across all of its genres – is more important than ever before. Even though the mantra is “this time it’s going to be different”, ushering out hierarchy, silos and closed doors, fintech is aping the misgivings of its parents: finance and technology.
We do have a really great opportunity to shift the needle here and to ensure the next – the fourth – industrial revolution is more enlightened, more inclusive and more value-oriented than ever before. We are developing new solutions reflecting a deeper understanding of diverse customer needs, with solutions appealing to both men and women – because they were designed by both men and women.
I truly believe that just as certain industry incumbents fear the rise of fintech, there also still exists some paranoia about doubting the validity of the status quo and discovering that to really achieve a culture supporting inclusion and diversity, some pain will be felt.
There’s so much to be gained if we get this right. A company with women role models is going to attract more incredible women. We have to ensure we celebrate these talented individuals, increase their visibility and turn up the volume when they’re speaking. The pluses are not just DNA-enhancing within a company, there are also cold hard performance-related benefits. Tech firms led by women have impressive capital efficiency – 35% on average – and statistics show that for every percentage increase in racial and gender diversity within sales organisations, sales revenues increase by up to 9%. Clearly the rationale for change is undeniable.
So where do we go from here? This is not just about women – we are just one part of the diversity debate. At Earthport we are committed to avoiding the mistakes of the past and to holding each other to account for the commitment we have made to cultivate and celebrate diversity in all its forms. In an industry founded on challenging the norm and demonstrating there is another way, it is indeed time to be bold for change.