The power of mindset: gender balance in the payments industry
With the advent of new technology, open banking and PSD2, 2019 is proving to be an exciting and tumultuous year for the payments industry. We see the rapid growth of omnichannel and e-commerce and the rise of artificial intelligence (AI).
There is creeping progress towards the possibility of a cashless society.
New players are emerging while banks consider whether to observe and imitate or to acquire and integrate their disruptive approach.
What does this mean for the industry and how will it affect the consumer experience?
All of these issues will be discussed at The Women in Payments Symposium on 28 March this year. This unique event offers perspectives of key female leaders in payments. It supports diversity and gender parity and includes topics impacting all aspects of the payments ecosystem.
The Women in Payments forum is a significant development in the evolution of gender parity in financial services. It’s not just about peer support – the panel provides brainstorming sessions where the issues of the day are hotly debated in a supportive, inclusive environment.
Our industry demands a curious and open mindset, one that looks for better ways to serve the evolving needs and wants of businesses and consumers. In my experience, this mentality is a strength that flourishes amongst the women in our industry, and will accelerate their ascent into more senior roles.
It’s essential to create and maintain a support network, who can mentor and coach you through your career. This includes allies who challenge you with discussions on timely, pertinent issues as well as gender-specific challenges. It often works best to include those from inside your organisation as well as external peers for alternative perspectives.
Like many industries, financial services has more men than women in leadership roles. However, this is changing. There is a growing commitment to implement diversity initiatives after the global financial crisis prompted a holistic rethink of corporate culture. Sweden’s Handelsbanken has just named Carina Akerstrom as its new chief executive, making her one of the few women leading a large financial institution in Europe. Visa is employing more and women in senior roles as well. These are signs of some progress made.
Unfortunately, in payments, very few women sit in C-suite offices. Fintechs are helping to change that by employing more women at the top. We are seeing a transition from a generation of women who were discouraged from studying mathematics, business studies, engineering and computer science to greater gender equality in these areas. When you combine this with initiatives such as “Girls Who Code”, you foster an environment that cultivates a greater range of abilities and ambitions.
In recent years, with programmes like shared parental leave and workplace flexibility, fewer women are dropping out of the workforce when they become parents. This is contributing to longer careers with greater progress towards leadership roles. Increasingly, organisations are recognising the benefits of gender diversity to improve their organisational culture and decision-making.
It’s opportune that we recently celebrated International Women’s Day. Supporting women in the office needs to be inclusive for both men and women. We need to work together to increase diversity at the top of house. At Elavon for International Women’s Day, we hosted a variety of female leaders in financial services and other sectors to speak to our employees across Europe. One of the topics covered was how women are leaving the corporate world after finding their progress stymied. They are starting their businesses in response, and are driving entrepreneurialism and innovation.
I am confident that we will see more women in leadership positions in payments, and financial services in general, in the coming years. As companies take more evolved approaches to make a positive social impact, they will shape their corporate cultures to be more inclusive. We will see more appropriate succession planning, flexible working opportunities to benefit families and growing numbers of women progressing their careers.
By Hannah Fitzsimons, EVP and GM Europe, Elavon Merchant Services