With International Women’s Day 2019 upon us, banks around the world are celebrating females in finance and addressing the scarcity of women heading up global corporations and institutions. Finextra Research will to do the same at EBAday, the two-day conference curated by the Euro Banking Association to be held in Stockholm on the 18th and 19th June 2019.
EBAday’s Women in Payments lunchtime debate will explore current best practices in corporate cultures and how work environments should be transformed with women in mind. With the event being hosted in Sweden, our expert panelists will leverage how gender equality is a cornerstone of society in the country and discuss how we can shape best practice in financial services.
In her International Women’s Day speech, the Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP called for a gender-balanced world with this year’s IWD theme #BalanceforBetter and highlighted that “inequality still persists. Still too many in our society face multiple barriers to achieving their full potential, and obstacles to being as resilient as they can be.”
International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde also revealed in a recent interview with The Guardian that more women in the workplace in countries that are ranked in the bottom 50% for gender equality would boost economy by 35%. "What we have observed is that when there are more women the banks' capital buffers are larger, the number of non-performing loans is smaller and the risk indices are lower. It is not causality but it is a strong correlation."
However, banks are attempting to make a difference. This week, State Street installed a replica of the renowned Fearless Girl statue in Paternoster Square in London to highlight the bank’s campaign to employ more women in management teams and on boards, as reported by Yahoo Finance.
Lori Heinel, deputy global chief investment officer for State Street Global Advisors, said: “Studies have shown that companies with greater gender diversity at the senior leadership levels generate better returns than their peers. That drives our conviction to continue our engagement and voting efforts as we look to make further progress on this important topic.”
In addition to this development from State Street, according to Financial News, Société Générale signed up to the government-led initiative Women in Finance Charter, in place to increase the number of female leaders. Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and BlackRock are also committed to this scheme.
Silicon Valley Bank is also prioritising putting more women in leadership roles and in its Women in Technology Leadership 2019 report, revealed that 56% of startups have at least one woman in an executive position, and only 40% have at least one woman on the board of directors. Alongside this, 28% of startups have at least one woman on the founding team and 5% of startups with only men on the founding team have a female CEO, and they are much more likely to have women leading HR and marketing. Also, startups with at least one female founder are more likely to engage with small investors.
Visa also launched a program called Visa Everywhere Initiative: Women’s Global Edition, which asks women from around the world to put forward problems they have encountered after working in the fintech industry. As reported in USA Today, there will a final event held at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France in June this year.
Despite these initiatives being put in place, a vast amount of progress still needs to be made. Innovate Finance revealed this week that female founders only make up 17% of fintech companies and women only receive 3% of VC fintech funding.
In the industry body’s annual Venture Capital Investment Report, CEO Charlotte Crosswell detailed how “fintech is one of the UK’s fast-growing industries, and one where we hold a strong competitive advantage, with the ability to offer extraordinary opportunities for flexible working.
“Our continued success is, however, critically dependent on ensuring higher representation of female-led FinTech firms, more diverse executive teams, and recognition of the talented women working in UK FinTech. It is vital that the sector doesn’t just pay lip service to inclusion and diversity. We must now be geared towards action to ensure that change actually happens.”
In conversation with Finextra Research Valentina Kristensen, director, growth and communications at Oaknorth Bank discusses how change can be actioned. “With something like this, it’s very hard to get it right everywhere as it varies so much from place to place. Even in the West, you have huge discrepancies where in countries like the US, the majority of female workers are only entitled to a maximum of 12 weeks unpaid leave. Whereas in somewhere like Sweden, parents of both sexes are entitled to 480 days (16 months) of paid parental leave at about 80% of their salary (with a cap).”
Speaking specifically about Sweden, where EBAday 2019 will be held this year, Kristensen says: “As a Dane, I think this is something that is reflected throughout Scandinavia - the aim is to ensure that everyone enjoys the same opportunities, rights and obligations in all areas of life.
“Even if you go back to the time of the Vikings, you had shield maidens who fought alongside male warriors. The rationale being that if you could train women to fight as well as men, you would increase your likelihood of victory (success) by being able to bring more warriors (and as a result, more diversity) on to the battlefield. This is a strategy that worked very well for the Vikings for hundreds of years and as we’ve seen from the numerous reports that have been published, more diversity within organisations almost always leads to better results.”
Kristensen also details the many initiatives out there, including blind CVs, the Fintech Parity Pledge and gender pay gap reporting and advises women to research the companies they are thinking of working for beforehand.
“In a company where the average employee age is 28 and none of the founders have children, it’s very possible that there won’t be a huge number of people who will be able to empathise with your need for flexible working hours. Equally, in a company where many people, especially at the senior level, have children, it’s likely that flexible working will be the norm and there will be numerous people who leave early / come in a bit later for school runs, work from home one or two days of the week, etc.”
Sophie Stevenson-Guibaud, managing director, Europe at Fidor Bank also suggests that remote working is a best practice for corporate cultures. “I personally work remotely. At Fidor, we have offices in Berlin, Munich and Dubai. All locations are pretty diverse, not reaching gender equality, but with a rather high percentage of women vs. other fintech companies. We have people from multiple backgrounds and around 40 different countries. This diversity brings a lot of wealth to the company by being able to leverage different perspectives in our day to day team work.”
Nadia Benaissa, chief marketing officer at Fidor Bank echoes Kristensen’s point and says that she “was fortunate enough to work for very diverse companies across my career because I chose to. This is an important criterion of selection, a sense of the company’s culture, and the values that I share. I would not see myself fit in any organisation that is made of clones, especially if we work in international markets. We need some empathy and we need to blend skills with market knowledge, personality, experience, nationality, lingual proficiency, gender, and awareness and openness about the world we live in.”
Best practices in corporate environments is a subject that will be discussed during the Women in Payments lunchtime session at EBAday 2019 with an aim of advocating women across the financial ecosystem in the heart of Sweden, where diversity and inclusion is championed.
Places are limited so click here to register for your place now!