In a financial landscape typically dominated by men, an important shift is underway. Women are not just entering the boardrooms of the finance world; they’re reshaping the entire industry, bringing fresh perspectives, resilience, adaptability and innovation, and moving finance into a fairer, more dynamic and inclusive space.
From investment banking and asset management to private equity and fintech, women are making significant strides and challenging the status quo. While the number of women in executive leadership roles is still far too low around the world, research shows there are signs of progress.
In the US, the proportion of women in leadership roles within the financial services is on the rise — despite being slightly stalled by the pandemic — and projected to grow from 24% to 28% by 2030, while in March this year, the UK government revealed that more than 81% of signatories of the Women in Finance Charter have either met or are on track to meet their targets for female representation in senior management — with average female representation reaching 35% in 2022.
Susanne Chishi, CEO of FINTECH Circle believes equity and inclusion brings wide-reaching positive change for business, the fintech industry and society at large.
“Equity and inclusion have got the power to dismantle systemic barriers which still exist, and to cultivate an industry and a society which really caters for all,” she says in an interview for ITN Business’ Finance: Equity and Inclusion programme.
“In terms of gender diversity, we know that 50% of all customers in finance are women, and I believe that 50% of all leadership positions of wealth should be held by women too.”
Gender parity in decision-making increases creativity, diversifies competence pools and reduces conflict. Recent research by gender diversity business The Pipeline revealed that London-listed companies are more profitable when women make up more than one in three executive roles. Plus, decades of studies show women leaders help increase productivity, enhance collaboration, and improve fairness.
Janine Hirt, CEO of Innovate Finance, believes that part of the reason the UK’s fintech sector is thriving is due to its skilled and enthusiastic leaders. She explains that “prioritising gender equality, and all forms of equality, is crucial for transforming the industry for the better.”
“Fostering a more diverse talent pool is imperative if the UK is to sustain its global leadership position on fintech and innovation for the long run,” says Janine. “A vibrant and diverse talent ecosystem will not only attract additional capital, it will draw more gifted and imaginative individuals to the UK — vital components for the sector’s future success.”
“It’s common at conferences or roundtables for the proportion of senior female attendees to be in the 25% range, although we are thankfully seeing these numbers start to rise,” says Janine.
“Increasing the visibility of these leaders can help attract younger females to the sector, and provide role models for women already working in the space.”
Inspiring women to thrive in finance
As Janine says, improving the visibility of women leaders as role models can be a key way of enticing graduates and young professionals into the sector; another strategy is facilitating mentorship. Identifying potential leaders early on and providing career guidance, coaching and feedback are all proven approaches.
“I’ve been privileged to have a number of phenomenal female leaders and managers that have supported me throughout my career,” says Janine. “I truly believe that if you can’t see it, you can’t be it. This is why at Innovate Finance we’re so passionate about having underrepresented leaders share their personal stories and journeys through our ‘Women in FinTech Power Hours’, our Pride in FinTech Powerlist, and our wider diversity programme.”
There also needs to be a focus on allyship — supported through training and education around gender bias and inequality. According to a 2018 study, male executives who are trained on how to be allies are far more likely to speak up about incidents of gender inequality than men who have received no training.
“I also want to shine a light on the amazing male leaders that have supported me in my journey,” says Janine, “which is equally as important if we are looking for true equality.”
To help close the gender gap, more of us need to speak up, says Susanne. “It’s up to all of us — when we realise there’s something wrong — to actively address it, and speak up for other women and other situations that need to be changed. Although it might be uncomfortable, we have to do that because it’s the right thing to do, and that requires courage and integrity.”
The gender pay gap remains a troubling issue, currently it’s at around 22%. Though limited public reporting makes it difficult to make precise estimates, Janine explains.
“More equitable pay will help fintechs improve their access to female talent, with the right skill sets and diverse thinking to help their businesses succeed,” she says. “Transparent reporting must be part of the solution. Our survey of the nominees for the Innovate Finance Women in FinTech Powerlist found that ‘enforced reduction of the gender pay gap’ was one of the top ways the industry could improve its gender DEI.”
Fintech is a vibrant and dynamic sector, and one Janine feels immensely proud to be a part of. “It has a strong sense of purpose, offering products and services that can make a tangible difference in people’s lives,” she says. “The opportunity to contribute to meaningful work, and the potential for rapid career progression, makes it an attractive pathway for ambitious young women.”
Explore more on fairness, equality and inclusion in the world of finance, in our Finance: Equity and Inclusion news-style programme.