While The Fintech Times is passionate about highlighting amazing women in fintech 365 days of the year, the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day of #BreaktheBias is one worth encouraging. We’ve spoken to Annette Evans, Head of People at GPS, to get her thoughts on how fintech can break the bias.
Annette Evans is Head of People at GPS, and has been instrumental in promoting diversity and equality with the business and wider industry. She is a highly skilled MCIPD HR Generalist and Employment Law specialist, with extensive experience in streamlining Human Resources processes.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day, #BreakTheBias, is interesting when thinking about diversity in all its forms. Whilst bias, both conscious and unconscious, can be challenging to truly eliminate, as stated in the Harvard Business Review, it is not difficult to interrupt. Or it might be more apt to say, disrupt, as we say in the tech industry.
Fintech firms agree that a commitment to being fully inclusive makes good business sense. There are many studies that show well-managed diverse groups outperform homogenous ones. Diversity leads to a higher collective intelligence, better decision-making, and accelerated innovation. As innovation is the lifeblood of any future-focused fintech, you would think fintechs would be leading the way when it comes to diversity.
Yet our GPS-sponsored Diversity for Growth Report in partnership with Findexable exposed a shocking lack of representation of women in fintech which is at odds with the forward-thinking nature of our industry.
The benefits of being unbiased
Tackling gender bias in any industry is not just a box-ticking exercise. It is commercially imperative. Put simply, 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). It is widely agreed that having more women in technical positions leads to more customers, because it means creating products that are made with women in mind.
Without gender diversity, organisations will miss out on the range of voices, opinions, life experiences, and skills that can drive a business forward. This range of voices translates to innovative thinking and as the Harvard Business Review article points out, organisations with higher-than-average diversity rates typically enjoy 19% higher innovation revenues.
So in knowing all this, why is gender diversity in fintech still an issue?
Being accountable to effect change
According to leaders across our fast-growing global GPS ecosystem of fintechs, schemes, and banks, the problem starts at the talent pool. They say the bench of candidates presented for senior or critical technical roles is rarely diverse, which limits hiring choices.
While this may be true, it somewhat passes the buck to recruiters in the hope they will take responsibility for solving the diversity challenge. 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 means we are recruiting from the same talent pool, time and time again, trapped in a cycle of hiring the same talent at the mid and senior levels, where most people often, to put it bluntly, look and sound the same. It is of course encouraging to see a crop of new diverse junior talent entering the talent pool, slowly work their way up the ladder. Eventually, it means we will be more diverse talent at a more senior level. But this kind of change takes time.
The sooner fintech leaders take steps to disrupt bias, the sooner they can effect change. This is why it is important that everyone recognises the need to #BreakTheBias. If recruiters are to be successful in providing a more diverse range of talent, leaders and hiring managers need to be more open-minded about where that talent may come from.
Many companies should also look to review their business culture and ask potentially tough questions that may uncover why so few women choose to work for their company. Do you create an environment where talent in all guises can shine? Have your surveyed your employees and gathered honest feedback from your female employees? Anonymous data so that employees feel safe to be truly honest?
It takes courage to put ourselves under the microscope in this way, but only in doing so can we discover the knowledge we need to take action to successfully address diversity challenges.
As the organisers of this year’s International Women’s Day state, knowing that bias exists is not enough. 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.
Action is needed to level the playing field. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day. Without action, fintechs are missing out on the insight and knowledge that can only come from gender diversity.