Is COVID a catalyst for good in Fintech?

Let me tell you about an industry where females are totally under-represented. One where derisively few companies have women as senior executives, let alone at the helm, and where even the users of the services provided are mainly male. It feels like a sector created by men for men. It doesn’t sound very 21st century, does it? Unfortunately, that’s fintech for you – it’s an industry that was formed by bringing together two of the least diverse sectors you could possibly find, and any efforts to address the situation are moving along at a snail’s pace.

A recent survey showed less than a third of the workforce in fintech are female, a percentage that has barely changed in three years. Why is this? Is there an inherent bias in recruitment? I don’t think so. It would seem that it’s more to do with a lack of applicants. Fintech execs say that their hire ratios reflect the profile of the people applying. I’d reply, that’s resting on your laurels and dare I say it, a bit lazy. As an employer, I’d be asking why that’s the case, and what can be done to encourage more females into the industry.

Tackling the gender imbalance is not just ethically the right thing to do, it’s a sound business decision  

It’s been proven over and over again that diversity improves innovation and decision making. And if more women can be encouraged into the industry, just maybe their insight would create a knock-on effect to address the mainly male customer base, allowing organisations to create products and effectively market them in order to tap into the vast spending potential on fintech products that women represent.  

This is clearly an issue, as a study by Starling in 2019 found that 90% of financial articles aimed at women, focused on small ways to save, such as saving coupons or trimming back outgoings. Those aimed at men were far more likely to be about enhancing pensions and maximising investments.

I’m well into the blog, and I haven’t mentioned COVID yet

But it’s relevant because as far as women in fintech are concerned, there might just be a silver lining to the whole pandemic.

I believe that one way to attract more females to the industry is to identify the working policies women want and plan how you can offer more of them. Remote working is something that a significant majority of female workers value. Flexibility in working hours and responsibilities is another area, and 8 out of 10 women say they are seeking more adaptability in their roles.   

Two things that we have learned from the pandemic is that office-based work does not have to take place in an office and that if you give people the freedom to achieve their objectives by managing their time in a way to suit them, you tend to get higher productivity.

The barriers of trust and culture have been well and truly smashed

‘My staff won’t work as hard at home’, or ‘flexible working just doesn’t suit our company’ – so often the excuses for keeping an office-centric model – can no longer be used with any authority. The last few months have proved them not to be true.

I’m not saying a flexible approach will guarantee diversity. There are many other areas to be addressed, not least of which is getting girls involved in STEM subjects at school. But by embracing the changes forced upon us by COVID, the fintech industry can make progress towards becoming a more inclusive working environment.  

Does your organisation have policies in place to attract females? If so, how successful have they been, and what challenges have you faced? Join the discussion by commenting below. 

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