Global Processing Services’ CEO, Joanne Dewar, spoke to Gina Clarke of The Fintech Times and Sam Seaton from Money Hub about women in the workplace. Here we reveal the opinion of a top global tech CEO as Joanne Dewar explains what it’s really like as a female at the top of your field – without the sugar coating.
Around 30% of the fintech workforce is made up of women, and that figure drops to just 17% of fintech leaders. This frank and open look at women in the workplace is a must-read for anyone who is - or works with women.
“There are so many different reasons why there’s such a lack of women at the top of fintech. In tech in particular, there’s a challenge, and then in leadership generally across all industries, so you bring those two together and you've really got a very small cohort.
“It’s a crying shame because those that are around, are demonstrating that they’re incredibly talented, and very strong leaders, with often quite progressive leadership approaches that are really beneficial to the industry and the wider world; so I’m desperate to try and help make a difference.
“Around 30% of the fintech workforce is made up of women and that figure drops to just 17% of leaders. In our organisation, I'm pleased to report that Global Processing Services is different. Not only having me as a female CEO, but we've got a very specific agenda on diversity, inclusion, and crucially, belonging. 40% of our wider leadership team is female, and about 35% across the organisation. Interestingly, we run monthly inductions for our new joiners, and of the nine that started in a recent cohort, eight were women.
Women and childcare
“There are many options on how to be able to balance childcare and a career, but they're not often spoken about. I think for those who are making those decisions in their late 20s, early 30s when you can't see the potential options, then you make assumptions around having to stop work to have a family. Or maybe you're on maternity leave, and it just looks like you either stop, or you're full-blown back to work and its external childcare support, and there's nothing in between. There’s actually a whole spectrum of options in between. But we don't spend enough time sharing those examples to be able to help people recognise there are more choices there that may actually help people maintain a balance over time.
“One of the things I’m a proponent of – and an example of – is ‘returnships’. After a significant period out of the workforce, if we can create the right support structures, both in the workplace and with childcare support, we can help people back into the workforce after a leave of absence.
The challenge of visibility of work
“To link it to the job in Canary Wharf I had after having my first child 16 years ago, I asked to work part time and what was created was four days a week in the office. It was an hour's commute - you had to allow it for it to be an hour and a quarter, and nursery hours were only eight till six. So the earliest I could get into the office was just after nine. And I had to leave the office at quarter to five to get there before the nursery shut. You would get berated and fined and face the risk of expulsion if you were running late.
“I had a relatively senior role, but I was arriving late, departing early. Any work that I did outside of that wasn't visible. So I felt I wasn't doing my job as well as I could have been and that I was a bad mum. I was never feeding my children my food - every meal was a nursery meal, and we were getting back just in time for a bath and bed. I didn't feel that I was doing any of those roles well.
“Nursery hours are so constraining, and when they were starting primary school for the first three weeks, they're not doing full days. The whole school construct is not designed for working parents. There's an inbuilt assumption that parents – predominantly the female – is at home and available at a moment's notice for whatever the cake cutting ceremony is.
Women in the workplace – support
“I think while the pandemic has definitely created short-term negatives, I'm hoping in the medium to long term, it’s created a new acceptance of flexible working that will be a real enabler for the balance of work and family life.
“If we get it right now, in five to ten years I’m very much hoping that it’s quite different for men and women. Enabling women to have more senior roles with higher commitments is not just about women, it’s about the whole support environment. I'm super fortunate to have a supportive husband, who’s able to pick up the strain. Usually, outside the pandemic, I do a lot of travel. I'm opening offices and going to conferences in different parts of the world and that just doesn't work without a support infrastructure.
“I've been really lucky with my husband – I took a period of time out and then we've done a full swap. He’s currently picking up the slack on the school drop offs and after-school activities. Without that, my job would be almost impossible to do.
“So it has to be that all jobs become flexible, not just jobs for women, the opportunity for secondments or extended or paternity leave, all these kinds of things – it’s really important to get right.
The future for women in the workplace
“I think we only need to look at what's been achieved in the Nordics for some really good examples. If we can get closer to that model, in terms of the child support and the structures put in place for men and women as well as the normalisation of a man being at pick up, or a dad going to a mum to arrange a play date is not seen to be odd. All these things need to be normalised for the whole thing to work in the long term.
“Taking out the commute and increasing flexible working will be a real enabler for the balance of work and family life.
“We need to drop the ladder down for others and use our influence when we are around the table to get other voices heard.”