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The future is bright, the future is female | Fintech fuels boardroom forecasts

Wow, 9,888 of you have read this.

If you’re like most bright, millennial women that I’ve met who started their career in Finance, you’re either considering whether the grass really could be ‘greener’, both financially and from a status point of view, in having a career in Tech, or you’re already knees deep in the move to an industry where the pace of innovation has taken the world by storm.

We are seeing movement not only from frustrated millennials at the lower levels of the talent ladder though, as many senior financial experts (Gemma Godfrey, CEO of Moo.la and Diana Paredes CEO of Suade Labs) have already cottoned on to this latest boom and redefined themselves in what is now an inescapable and impressive £20bn Fintech market in the UK. And who can blame them?

Emily Mackay of Crowdsurfer and Marta Krupinska of Azima as just two examples of women who are flying in the face of gender and generation stereotype and showing us how UK, ‘Under 30’ females are “getting it done”. So, given that “Tech” has become so darn cool for guys and ever-increasingly gals alike, just how many women do you think are Directors in Fintech companies?

NEWS FLASH: Only 8 % of Fintech Directors (AKA that get promoted to the top job) globally are women.

According to research from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, women make up just 26% of the UK’s digital workforce. The figures are even bleaker across some of the world’s biggest technology companies: Apple has 20% of women employees in technology, Google has 17% of women in its workforce, while Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter have 16.6%, 15% and 10% respectively. Even allowing for margins of error, they point towards a dearth of women in technology.

Rather unsurprisingly, representation at the top in both the technology and banking sector is such because these industries were once traditionally male-dominated clubs. Just over a year or so ago I attended the Fintech50 launch which celebrated the top and up-and-coming Fintech companies. It was only when I went to the loo (bear with me on this – female readers you will already know this is where the best gossip really happens) where I met Chief Scientist of a promising behavioural analytics company: “We’re one of few women at this event and can you believe it? ” and she laughed…probably to stop herself from crying. Coming from a family of three older brothers, I hadn’t even thought twice about the gender split of the room. Nonetheless, in a playback of the event I did indeed notice that I was one of the very few females there for a highly regarded Fintech networking event. It is hardly a surprise, therefore, that the new generation of Fintech companies trying to take over traditional forms of financing are today in short supply of women to represent them on their boards.

One of the biggest reasons why these women haven’t been included on boards other than by numbers sake?  They simply don’t even hear about the opportunities. ‘Are you kidding me?’ I hear you cry! No, my readers – sadly, not. You see, traditionally, a lot of Board room conversations took place on the golf course – and I’m not even kidding. And that’s where the smart women got smarter and (even if they didn’t like the sport) they learned to play. It’s only been in the last 10 years or less, and in particular since the Financial Crisis  prompted the Walker Review of Board Behaviour that the world has woken up to the opportunities that could be created by promoting or being an advocate for the benefits incurred by the presence of women in the boardroom.

Fortunately, now many, many women’s networks have been set up to address the issue of gender diversity, most notably prompted by Fintech but also in Tech and Financial Services more broadly. A few notable ones come from Financial Services industry itself: investment banks, in particular Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank’s female mentoring programme,  to the latest “Allbright” fund and mentoring scheme which has been set up by two reputable Female Founders Debbie Wosskow and Anne Jones, serving only aspiring female entrepreneurs.

The real target, nonetheless, is to have women in a third of FTSE 350 Board seats by 2020.

So, have campaign efforts to increase the number of women on Boards really been effective? Yes …and a resounding no. Or, rather ‘not yet’. While social awareness has increased, the number of female’s on Fintech Boards is still only 8%. In a study of 268 companies across 19 countries, the Nordic countries scored highest at 11% while the Dutch the worst with only 3% of women on their boards – a surprising result for such a burgeoning geographical area of Fintech. I don’t believe in quota for a quota’s sake and nor do most Non-Executives. Nonetheless, it does beg the question as to what impact quotas and targets are really having to change the numbers on the gender diversity scene? Since, although the prevalence of women who have been successful in PR and personal branding strategies has increased (think Gemma Godfrey and Eileen Burbidge – both Twitter’s most highly influential Fintech leaders), the actual increase and impact of these personal campaigns seem to have had less of a knock-on effect when it comes to seeing female representation on Fintech Boards

It’s only two months ago that Innovate Finance , the UK membership organisation that represents global FinTech, published its 2016 Women FinTech Powerlist. I wonder how many of these names we will see on our Boards in 2025…

About the author

Elle Edwards represents the ‘Voice of the Professional Millennial’ and, as an advocate of her generation, is on a mission to inspire and inform business leaders and other millennials of the opportunities and possibilities that can be created by harnessing – instead of undermining – a millennial mindset.

Millennials often get labelled as self-centred, lazy and ‘useless’ when it comes to the workplace. Elle heartily disagrees with this stereotype. Instead, she actively works to promote and celebrate the unique talents and abilities of those with a millennial mindset – and in the hope to overcome this incriminating view of her generation.

Drawing on her growing expertise and passion for professional development, she also advises and informs CEO’s and business leaders on building a progressive workplace culture. This advisory work might include: how to use millennials to your advantage; how to engage an employee workforce; leverage data and adopt a 21st Century cultural mindset that makes the workplace a thriving hub full of successful employees – at every level.

Follow Elle, as she shares her understanding of the skills and behaviours transforming the culture of the workplace for the benefit of millennials, executives and the performance of organisations alike. Work with her, as a business leader or millennial, on creating a positive, progressive workplace culture that drives performance, but also ultimately works for all – whatever your generation.


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