Nuno Sebastiao is a co-founder and CEO of Feedzai, a machine learning platform for anti-fraud. Previously, Nuno contributed to the history-making Rosetta comet chaser space probe. Nuno is a huge supporter of the HeForShe campaign and for workplace diversity.
Why do you support the HeForShe campaign? For example – do you have a daughter or have you witnessed the benefits that diversity can bring to a workplace?
I support the HeForShe campaign because as the head of a company I know how crucial it is for the success of our business to have a diverse workforce. I also have two daughters, and like any proud and caring parent, I want my children to grow up knowing they can follow their dreams and achieve anything they set out to do.
Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?
As a business owner I recognise the importance of diversity in our workplace that reflects society as a whole. Studies have proven that diverse teams make better decisions. For a company to be successful, it needs people with a wealth of different attributes – from thinkers and ideas people to the highly ambitious, the diplomats, the compassionate, the organised and meticulous, the crazy professors, the introverts and the extroverts; everyone has an important part to play and everyone positively contributes to the corporate culture. A company with a monolithic culture is not going to break boundaries and reach for the stars. This is why workplace diversity is so important, and gender equality is a big part of that.
How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently?
I believe we men are very much welcome and we also need to play an important part in facilitating change. Like with anything in the world, it should not be a case of one group fighting for rights against another group. Every ‘stakeholder’ needs to realise we are working towards a common goal where policies and practices are fair for all and inclusive of all. Aiming for consensus is definitely the most difficult way to move towards organisational change, however, it is important to avoid discontent amongst certain groups.
Do you think groups/networks that include the words “women in…” or “females in…” make men feel like gender equality isn’t really their problem or something they need to help with?
If anything, this should further underscore the need for diversity. People band together when they feel disenfranchised. I believe it is important to avoid tribalism. We are all part of the problem and the solution.
What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?
It is probably important to find something that makes it relevant to them. It’s human nature to care about things that affect your life and stay out of things that don’t. Some might say life is complicated enough as it is without fighting another cause. As long as the status quo benefits them, they won’t want to change it.
As soon as you implement policies that benefits a certain group and makes it feel it is to the detriment of another (even if on paper it may not be the case), those affected will get involved. Obviously, this is not the way forward and it is the reason we need to affect change in a positive way and implement policies that benefit everyone the same way.
Flexible and remote working is one example: it is a helpful benefit for parents to facilitate childcare, but it also offers immense benefits in terms of wellbeing for all other employees. Obviously this is only one aspect of the gender equality debate that needs to be looked at, that also includes things like access to careers, equal pay and promotion. Again, here, relevance is important. I have two daughters and I want them to grow up in a world where they can choose and make a success of any career. This has been one of the drivers behind me launching #Code4all, a Feedzai initiative that aims to promote equal opportunities in the technology industry and empower more women and minority groups to attend important industry events such as hackathons.
Do you currently mentor any women or have you in the past?
As CEO, mentoring all my employees is the essence of my job and most important focus. So having diversity of employees is the key here since I learn from people that I mentor. Also, having diverse mentors is important. One of the things I am proud of is the diversity of Feedzai’s investors which are essentially my mentors, namely Citi Ventures and OAK HC/FT, both are led by women VCs and their perspective provides a balanced view.
Have you noticed any difference in mentoring women – for example, are women less likely to put themselves forward for jobs that are out of their comfort zones or are women less likely to identify senior roles that they would be suited for?
We all have different character traits – men and women: some of us are confident, others are shy, some of us are introverts, others are extroverts or somewhere in between. You get the drift. However, I do get the sense that sometimes, in certain corporate cultures but of course not all, there is a lack of opportunities for women to progress. One element may be that the same personal attributes are viewed differently in men and women. A man might be seen as confident while a woman might be seen as pushy and so on. On the other hand, with a lack of female representation at senior level at some organisations it may be difficult for women to break into the ‘old boys network’.
I believe to change this mindset we need to start as early as at the nursery level. Both boys and girls need to be brought up with the same value sets, something that still does not happen today. I hope we are doing a good job with our daughters so that they will be able to follow any opportunities they wish to pursue. This way the next generation of women will hopefully experience more equality in all aspects of life.