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Empowering the Next Generation of Fintech’s Female Leaders

According to a recent McKinsey report, seventy-three percent of financial services C-suite executive positions are held by men. Within the payments industry specifically, gender diversity is even worse. The same study found that payments had the lowest share of female representation at the entry-level, manager, and senior-manager ranks. And representation continues to fall off at each level of the corporate ladder. 

Time for a change? The industry must move quickly to embrace inclusion, diversity, and representation - and not just women. Our approach to talent acquisition has to reflect the advancement and sophistication we seek to achieve across the payments and fintech industries. 

The payments and fintech space is, after all, transforming at a meteoric pace, with innovation and development happening on a seemingly daily basis. The last two years of the pandemic accelerated transformation at a never-before-seen rate, revolutionizing antiquated systems and solutions. As the industry continues to evolve at scale, it’s critical that so too does equal and inclusive representation.

 It starts in the classroom: Prioritizing inclusion in education 

While there are many reasons for the lack of representation across boardrooms today – many of which are systemic – one reason, in particular, includes access to education. Without certain levels of education or degree recognitions, it can be near impossible to pursue jobs in entire industries and seniority levels. Similarly, as the wider industry faces a gender gap, so does the education system, creating a perpetual cycle that leaves behind women and other underrepresented groups. It is imperative to develop equal opportunity across educational and career life processes.  

We must question how to improve accessibility and remove the barriers that limit opportunities. Improved access to education means greater opportunity for all. For example, courses and programs focused on economics, computer science, and finance have historically been male-dominated, discouraging female participation. How can we take a closer look at the systems in place fueling this pattern? What barriers need to be removed to facilitate more balanced participation in these courses? What can we do proactively as an industry to encourage more women to pursue education in this field?

Another crucial factor to consider as it contributes to gender disparities across the payments and fintech industries is general financial literacy. For many years, talking about money was taboo – an uncomfortable topic that people shied away from, including within the school curriculum. This further fueled a lack of understanding and education around the topic and discouraged interest in pursuing opportunities in adjacent professions. For this reason, financial education must be included in today’s curriculum to teach young adults basic principles and inspire further passions and interests across the field. 

Without education, you are immediately precluded from access to senior positions. By prioritizing female inclusion in financial services at step one – education – women will be more likely to pursue a career in the same industry, especially as the employment market across this industry continues to run hot. The responsibility is on us to reach our future leaders by encouraging them to pursue financial and technical careers from a young age. 

Beating bias blind spots 

The hiring process also plays a fundamental role in diversity and inclusion. Everyone has their own biases, which inherently affect the hiring process, and perpetuate existing cycles of systemic exclusion. The sooner we recognize these shortcomings, the sooner we can correct and implement new strategies and safeguards to account for our biased blind spots.  

A genuinely inclusive hiring process goes beyond sourcing underrepresented candidates and proactively takes action to fight against inherent bias and discrimination in recruitment. This may require HR and hiring managers to search for candidates beyond their immediate network. Leading with inclusive hiring is an important step that we must take across the payments and fintech industries to combat our own intrinsic biases and cultivate a more inclusive workforce – one that looks more representative of the people we hope to serve. 

“Be the change you want to see.”

We can’t just expect the world to be different; it is our duty to each other and future generations to model the workplace change we want to see. Find ways to celebrate and invest in women, take every opportunity to support education by volunteering or becoming a mentor. We can empower each other and the next generation to pursue the opportunities that too often leave us behind and, in doing so, foster a more equal, inclusive, and representative industry.

The industry must do more. Tone and culture are set by leadership through example. More inclusive representation at the top will inevitably trickle down and set a precedent of what’s expected within an organization and the broader industry. It is one of the most important ways to sustain and propel the industry forward. 

We must do more to develop and encourage inclusion for those left behind. Just as we continue to leapfrog in vision and technology, leapfrogging to representation will bring its rewards in creativity, drive, and sustainability. Prioritize this ambition just as you would in developing next-generation technology, and start to experience the benefits of inclusion.

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