The women of fintech

The women of fintech

The first Briton in space was a woman, the only person to win a Nobel prize in two different fields was female, and much of the data that led to the discovery of DNA was produced by a woman.

While the achievements of Helen Sharman, Marie Curie and Rosalind Franklin are well-known, there are even more stories like theirs to uncover.

Take, for example, the recent film Hidden Figures which told the true story of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, whose brilliant minds provided the mathematical firepower for NASA’s early forays into space. Their work was crucial, their remarkable talent, undeniable.

With International Women’s Day approaching, we caught up with two fintech influencers to unlock the key to success, and to get their views on how to get more women into the industry.

Susanne Chishti is the CEO of FINTECH Circle, Europe's 1st Angel Network focused on fintech opportunities & Founder of the FINTECH Circle Institute, the 1st peer-to-peer fintech learning platform…

Girls are showing they have the aptitude in science and maths, and those wanting to work in the field shouldn’t feel put off by perceived ‘barriers’. For anyone wanting to get into the fintech industry, I would advise, firstly, learn as much as possible from the finance sector and which technologies can be applied to solve challenges which retail customers or clients face.

Secondly, try to look beyond the surface and understand the underlying business and revenue models, and how they are being changed by fintech innovation. Thirdly, network. Attend great events and conferences and see how you can help others in the fintech ecosystem - entrepreneurs, investors, banks, insurance firms, fintech start- and scale ups etc. and how you can form mutual partnerships.

Women in fintech

To encourage females into the industry, we need to start by highlighting and celebrating women across tech so that they can be role models for other women. We need to show that maths, statistics, engineering and science subjects in general are both fun and allow women to make the world a better place. Technology jobs are not only for men.

Lifelong support

Schools and universities have a leading role to play in helping nurture a new generation of female fintech specialists, from encouraging them to take up more science subjects to joining coding/robotics clubs.

Employers can also play their part and create more paid internship programs for girls in tech and finance firms and allow them to try things out and learn on the job and during their studies.

For all women who successfully enter the finance and tech sector, companies need to nurture them and promote them at the same speed and with the same salaries as men.

At board level, we should insist that companies have 30% female board members, anything below that really shows that companies do not take diversity seriously enough.

Finally, employers need to continue to support mothers with part-time work which is both interesting and well paid.

Devie Mohan  is the co-founder and CEO of Burnmark, a fintech research company, that supplies research and data to all players of the fintech ecosystem.

How to get on in fintech

I always say fintech is not an industry, just a way of thinking. If you’re able to identify the problems with the way banking works today, and wonder how the customer journey can be improved, then you have a future in fintech. You need to have an appreciation of technology and trends to do well in fintech, but a deep technical/programming skillset isn’t essential.

It is a fascinating time for the industry and I love the impact of what we’re doing. It may not seem so revolutionary at the moment, but in a decade or so, 2010 to 2016 will be seen as the years that dramatically altered the experience, behaviour and offerings within financial services for good. At Burnmark, we look at the numbers around this impact on a daily basis - there are three main areas where fintech has already made a significant impact:

- In bringing new people into the money management ecosystem, who never had the need or interest to be in it (the "unbanked")

- In creating personalised products and services that resonate with those who disliked traditional ways of handling money (the "underbanked")

- In creating whole new markets where none existed before

Lessons to learn

I went to school in southern India and the culture largely encourages girls (and boys) to enter highly technical fields, and an engineering degree is very common. My favourite subject was maths and I taught myself coding when I was 10 or 11. By the time the internet became popular in the 90s, I was creating whole websites from scratch. It took me over a decade though to understand that this is not the case globally, and women can find it difficult to progress through the ranks in technical professions.

We need to encourage more women into STEM subjects at school as well as at universities, banking jobs and entrepreneur circles. It’s human nature to recruit those they are most comfortable with, and if you already have a lack of diversity in the first place, it’s hard to break the cycle.

Girls need to be encouraged to learn technology and programming from a very early job, before self-made biases start setting in. VC and angel investors could potentially actively seek out women entrepreneurs with sound business models. There's much more that can be done to remove barriers in the field.