Mark Freed, E2W: The gender statistics will remain appalling until we think differently

Mark Freed, E2W: The gender statistics will remain appalling until we think differently

Over the holiday period I saw my 17-year-old niece Katie reading an article in an engineering magazine about the lack of women in that industry. She is considering becoming an engineer.

During an enlightening conversation, I asked her to tell me how today’s cars would be different had there been a better gender balance on the design team. She gave me a very quick feedback. Today’s cars would be: safer, greener, offer more passenger compartment choice and more model variety, be more comfortable. The impressive and very believable list kept growing (including shoe space!).

She asked about diversity in financial services. I gave the appalling facts and also the good news about what the industry is doing to address the challenges and collect the “gender dividend”. She was impressed and we started to talk about a career in financial services for engineers which naturally led us onto careers in fintech and banking technology.

She then asked me the question: how would today’s financial technology be different if there had been better gender diversity on the design and development teams?

You do not have to look very far for research to confirm what we already know – fintech is dominated at all levels and in all core roles by men. That same research will say we need more women in fintech. The industry’s attempts to attract more women are often rank limited to producing a list showing “the top 50 women in fintech”.

The gender statistics will remain appalling until we think differently. Achieving better gender balance because it’s fashionable or socially and morally the right thing to do, will do little to move the needle. We need to understand the benefit that better gender diversity will make and if we can articulate this then both demand for and the supply of woman in the industry will increase.

Put simply, we need to be able to answer my niece’s question: How would today’s financial technology be different if there had been better gender diversity on the design and development teams?

I have given this some thought and posed the question to peers and colleagues. Katie, here are my top three answers:

1. Your approach to risk is typically different from a man’s. The finance industry’s success is dependent on understanding and mitigating risks. Increasingly, the industry is relying on technology that analyses, manages, sets limits on and highlights risk.

Your different approach to risk could lead to better systems – giving technology vendors and banks competitive advantage, regulators better insight and customers better outcomes, all leading to a healthier more stable economy.

2. Like car drivers, users of financial technology are not all men. You have a perspective and insight into customer need, functional requirements and usability that is different from the majority of current developers.

Embracing these perspectives into design would make financial products and systems more attractive to at least half the population.

3. Fact: diverse teams perform better particularly in research and development. Your presence in a fintech development team would speed time to market, reduce failures and ensure a far superior product.

I hope the industry will take this start, develop the ideas and make the industry, the sector and the world a better place.

Mark Freed, CEO of E2W, a recruitment, contractor and consultancy business focusing on women in financial services


From left to right: Ghela Boskovich, FemTechGlobal; Jennifer Stott, RBC Investor and Treasury Services, W.I.T. Award 2016 winner; Tanya Andreasyan, Banking Technology

Banking Technology, supported by a worldwide network of FemTechGlobal, has recently launched the Woman In Technology (W.I.T) Award, which recognises an outstanding contribution made by a female to the fintech industry.

The W.I.T. Award celebrates the spirit of inclusion, diversity and creativity in the fintech industry. 

To find out more and to nominate an outstanding woman for the W.I.T. Award, please visit our Banking Technology Awards page. The nominations are free.

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