International Women’s Day: leading the fintech charge
Gender diversity continues to dominate both the business news agenda and the UK’s political agenda. More recently, the government has announced a £1.5 million fund to help tackle the gender pay gap by offering grants for people to return to work after taking time out to care for others as part of a wider £5 million initiative.
Having worked in the financial sector for over 20 years, it’s positive to see the headlines changing to reflect the successes of women.
This isn’t just a social issue, but also an economic challenge – management consulting firm, McKinsey, suggested that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. In addition, the firm also predicted that 240 million workers would be added to the world’s working force in 2025 by closing the gender pay gap. It’s apparent that although we are moving forward, there’s still a great deal to be done.
Technology has also become an equaliser in many ways. It now allows women to be in sectors which were traditionally male-dominated. It brings opportunities for gender diversity – particularly in the financial services sector where it is ingrained in fintech and payment companies to challenge the status quo and retain that start-up mentality that can feel more inclusive. There is a lesson to be learned from fintech companies in challenging the norm, and the benefits of diversity in organisations at all levels cannot be underestimated.
I initially started my working life as a chemical and processing engineer, and never could have imagined I would end up finding my calling in fintech. Careers in general can take unexpected turns and while this can seem to be a challenge, it’s important to be open-minded to the opportunities that face us. For my particular career re-routing, I had to make that jump from the oil and gas industry to the fintech sector and gain a depth of knowledge and understanding of the global market.
Some areas have required me to develop a softer skillset as opposed to technical expertise, but it’s equally important to understand the macro trends at play in the industry.
One of the key challenges for a number of women in my position is balancing work and personal life – particularly for those with a role that requires international travel. It opens many doors and is a great opportunity, but it’s not always easy and means you can’t always balance the two equally. What’s critical in juggling life as a career woman and a mother is a support network that enables you to fulfil your roles.
There is a long way to go for a number of industries to ensure they are attracting the best talent out there. Working in the payments industry throughout my career has not been without its challenges from a diversity perspective, but it’s been key for me to find a company that has a strong and diverse leadership team with more than one woman in a senior position, and one that has an entrepreneurial spirit. That spirit ripples through the organisation and means every voice is heard at all levels.
Through my experience in the financial sector, there are three key learnings I would offer to any woman looking to nurture their career:
- Focus on what is unique about yourself – be sure that you differentiate and remain an individual. All too often, there can be a pressure to feel that you must conform, but it’s important not to lose the essence of “you”.
- Don’t rest on your laurels. Tenacity, drive, and ambition to go for what you want is key to progressing. Doing a “good job” is not enough – you have to stand out.
- Learn, develop, and get familiar with the changing dynamics within the sector – knowledge is power, and knowing your sector inside and out is a great quality.
Over the years, women have been at the forefront of STEM-related revolutions and challenging stereotypes. While it can feel like an uphill battle, it’s important not to lose sight of your ambition – no matter what industry you’re in.
Claire Gates, chief executive officer, payolution, Paysafe Group