By Laura Hutton, co-founder of Quantexa
According to New Financial, women make up just 23 per cent of senior staff at 25 of the major international banks, demonstrating that the industry remains heavily male-dominated.
Banks continue to be built around the culture of the ‘old boys’ club’, which can cause women to feel excluded from the inner circle from the beginning of their careers. This perception, coupled with long hours and a macho face-time culture, serves to make many women feel unwelcome and impair their career progression.
FinTech, however, is disrupting banking, making it more transparent, democratised and accessible. In terms of gender balance, it also has the potential to deviate from the financial industry and offer an alternative path for women in finance.
FinTech over finance
While both FinTech and traditional finance companies bestow a heavy workload on their employees, FinTech, as an emerging industry, is comprised of start-ups and young companies that have no in-built traditions and can therefore create a more flexible working environment. Consequently, these companies provide more opportunities for women looking to balance work with children.
Meanwhile, the alpha male culture and sexist attitudes rife within finance are perceived as being reduced in FinTech, with the sector becoming more diverse than the financial sectors. Many women globally are already attaining more senior positions than their colleagues in traditional financial services positions. As a new industry, there are numerous opportunities for women to progress up the career ladder.
This can be seen in emerging markets in particular. In Nigeria, for example, FinTech is booming and women launching FinTech businesses there can use the country as a gateway to Africa and find real success in a rapidly expanding market.
Meanwhile, the underlying technology that supports the FinTech industry is also new, meaning that women entering the industry now can quickly develop expertise and establish themselves as authorities within a short space of time. This allows women to lead on innovation and development, engendering women-led businesses to gain a foothold in the sector.
The need for diversity
Studies have long shown that across industries more diverse companies, including those with equal proportions of men and women in leadership roles, perform better than companies with homogeneous workers. When people encounter more outside perspectives, they are inclined to consider their ideas more carefully and consequently make better decisions.
To ensure diversity of thought and that products appeal to both men and women, industries need products that are designed by both genders. FinTech prides itself on being cutting-edge and defining the status quo — and that means appealing to and serving all. With emerging technology vulnerable to passing on the biases of its creators, FinTech needs a diverse input of leaders to create industry-wide standards for new technology.
At present, only 17 per cent of all UK specialist technology jobs are held by women. This needs to change but to do so requires a change at a grassroots level. In schools and at home, girls must be encouraged into STEM subjects, then supported through work experience and mentors into FinTech roles. We need female representation and participation to enable these industries to benefit from a diversity of perspective and cater for all.
FinTech is an interesting intersection between the traditional world of finance and the disruption of technology. The way forward is a collaborative one of diversity of thought; an industry in which women can benefit from an innovative environment that supports them and their ambitions.
About the author
Laura Hutton is Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at Quantexa – the start-up solving financial crime and terrorism through data analytics, AI and machine learning.
Laura has over 12 years’ experience using data and network analysis to tackle fraud and financial crime. In the wake of the 2008 Jérôme Kerviel rogue trading scandal, Laura pioneered and implemented the technology subsequently put in place by Société Générale to prevent similar from occurring again. She has since headed up teams at Detica and SAS, before co-founding Quantexa in 2016 where she uses sophisticated networking technology to help their clients such as HSBC, and Shell.
In an industry where only one in seven of women are executive committee members & only 17 per cent of start-ups were founded by women, Laura is passionate about inspiring girls to work in and establish companies like Quantexa. Laura runs work experience programs for 16/17 year old girls to encourage them to get into STEM subjects.