This year’s theme for International Women’s Day, #BreakTheBias, is interesting when thinking about diversity in all its guises. Whilst bias, unconscious or deliberate, can be challenging to truly eliminate, I loved a line I read in the Harvard Business Review that said, bias is not difficult to interrupt. Or, if we apply this notion to our industry as bold tech innovators, disrupt…
Fintech firms agree that a commitment to being fully inclusive makes business sense. Well-managed diverse groups outperform homogenous ones as diversity leads to a higher collective intelligence, better decision-making, and accelerated innovation. Innovation being the lifeblood of any future-focused fintech, therefore you would think that fintechs would be pioneers of diversity.
Yet as our GPS-sponsored Diversity for Growth Report in partnership with Findexable revealed recently, the representation of women in fintech often surprisingly tells a different picture.
Two data points which stood out to me were:
- There is a consensus that a lack of gender balance means men’s ideas dominate across every stage of the fintech value chain; and,
- Rapidly scaling companies are struggling to balance diversity commitments with the challenges of building teams in new regions at scale and speed.
It is also widely agreed that having more women in technical positions leads to more customers because it means creating products which are tailored with women in mind. Women understand how women think and what they need. You need women in your team if you want to try and build and sell a product to women. If you don’t, you risk losing 50% of your target customers (give or take). Which makes no commercial sense.
So in knowing this, why is gender diversity in fintech still an issue?
When I speak to leaders across our fast-growing global GPS ecosystem of fintechs, schemes, and banks, I nearly always hear the same thing. The bench of candidates being presented for senior or critical technical roles is rarely diverse limiting hiring choices.
This pushes the challenge back to recruiters to try and solve the diversity conundrum. Which is understandable, to some extent. However, the stark reality today is the pool of fintech talent we are all recruiting from, whilst growing, it is still small compared to other sectors.
This is where I say we all need to apply the #BreakTheBias lens for recruiters to be successful in providing a more diverse range of talent, and leaders need to be more open-minded about where the talent may come from.
Recruiting from the same talent pool, time and time again, leads to a merry-go-round of the same talent at the mid and senior levels, where most people often, let’s be honest, look and sound the same. Whilst waiting patiently for new diverse junior talent to enter the talent pool, slowly work their way up the ladder, eventually diversifying talent at a more senior level in the next decade or so once they have gained their experience. This means transformation can happen but it will take a long time.
Many companies may also need to review their business culture and ask potentially tough questions around why so few women choose to work for their company. Do you create an environment where talent in all guises can shine? Or does it unconsciously favour those who already fit the mould? If someone thinks or acts differently, how are they treated?
It is only by shining a mirror on ourselves can we discover the knowledge we need to take action to try and address diversity challenges. We have to listen to be given the opportunity to change. Change can take a long time, but it will take even longer if it is delayed, ignored or hidden.
As the organisers of this year’s International Women’s Day state, knowing that bias exists is not enough.
Action is needed to level the playing field. Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day.