This October at The Fintech Times we are championing the fantastic females in the fintech industry. Around 30% of the fintech workforce are women, and we want to spotlight those who have not only made it to the top, but those who have overcome hurdles, bulldozing a path for the women to follow.
Here we hear from Roxana Mohammadian-Molina, Jinnee Lim, Diane Myer Brown, Ophelia Snyder and Helen Child as they share with us how they smashed the glass ceiling.
Roxana Mohammadian-Molina, Chief Strategy Officer at Blend Network
“The one single most important thing that has helped me smash the glass ceiling throughout my career has been seeking and finding mentors who could support my career goals. From my experience, it is essential to have internal advocates who can assert and support your career growth and who can mentor and guide you.
“Another key thing has been to have role models I could look up to in order to guide my career. The funny thing is that when people talk about role models, they often think of high-profile people who have achieved extraordinary things. I have had many role models throughout my career, some of whom are high-profile people, yet the best role models have been ordinary people doing extraordinary things in their own way and working hard to smash the glass ceiling in their own organisations. One of my favourite high-profile female role models is Dame Helena Morrissey, former CEO of Newton Investment Management managing nearly £50bn in assets. I love something she once said: ‘‘the [glass ceiling] narrative gets stuck on women, women, women, and how bad men are, and that’s not going to help us get results.’ I agree with this. I believe it is not all about women. Instead, including the perspective of men and recruiting male champions is a crucial element of smashing the glass ceiling once and for all.
“Another important point is that I don’t believe you ever stop smashing the glass ceiling. What I mean is that attaining equality at the table is an ongoing job and that we can’t rest on our laurels once we have reached a certain position within our organisation or within our industry. In fact, I believe that once we have reached senior positions, we have an even more urgent responsibility to keep working hard to ensure we set the tone at the top and create champions for change in order to raise awareness and take collective action. I strongly believe that senior leaders have an ongoing duty to develop awareness of where glass ceilings exist within organisations because the better we understand the issue, the more opportunities we will identify to promote change. Ultimately, our efforts on smashing the glass ceiling, on work equality and inclusion for women is a marathon, not a sprint and we must be unashamedly talking about these issues because they influence the quality of our lives and our society.”
Jinnee Lim, Chief Growth Officer – Southeast Asia at Finder
“When I started my career, I was quiet and would hesitate to speak up even when I had good ideas to contribute. Sometimes I would bounce off my thoughts with my male colleagues to validate my views and they ended up sounding off those ideas with the superiors, passing on as their own.
“I realised that I needed to be more visible and confident in a male-dominated environment, in order to stand out and that being good at what I was doing technically would only get me so far. It had been suggested to me many times that I needed to be more aggressive, loud and thick-skinned, which are against my personal beliefs. Instead, I focused on creating opportunities for myself to speak up even though it freaked me out the first few times. Now, no matter what the situation is, if I have a view, I speak up.
“Once I told a regional head that I disagreed with a decision that he’d made, and I laid out the reasons. Some people thought it was career suicide because nobody dared disagree with him before. Turns out he thought my approach was honest and refreshing… and that my points made sense! We sat down to discuss deeper and I ended up working on the topic with him to get to a better outcome. I was rewarded with more responsibilities thereafter – and later, took on a regional leadership role to oversee implementation of top strategic priorities.
“In another role, I once told the CEO that the day I would agree with everything he said and become a “Yes” person, I would be of no value to him or the business.
“Having the courage to stay true to yourself to define who you are as a leader is important. Yes – you can be feminine and you can be an effective leader. You just have to discover your own “X” factor and nurture it.”
Diane Myer Brown, Chief Marketing Officer at TrackStar.ai
“I led with data to smash the glass ceiling because It is hard to argue with it. When reflecting on my career I can pinpoint key moments where I focused on doing great work and leading with data instead of getting sidetracked by being the only female in the room. I succeeded by leveraging data and leading teams to focus on the story that needed to be told and from there, I leveraged technology to overcome the types of challenges that come up for marketers. Once people can trust you and understand that you are knowledgeable, they are more open to your ideas.
“It’s ok to acknowledge gender inequalities when they arise, but I made sure not to let that affect my work product. For example, calling someone “poopsie” in an executive leadership meeting after they just called you “sweetheart” goes a long way.”
Ophelia Snyder, Co-Founder and President at 21Shares
“The glass ceiling for me has always been something that I have continuously worked to raise., I’m only 29, but I am proud to be the co-founder and president of 21Shares, the world’s largest issuer of cryptocurrency exchange-traded products (ETPs).
“Hany Rashwan and I started this business in part because we wanted to demystify cryptocurrency for our own mothers, who had expressed interest in this growing asset class but didn’t feel like it was accessible to them – and so we asked ourselves, why not? My journey to 21Shares is certainly never one I took for granted. After growing up in Italy and the United States, I graduated from Stanford University with a B.S in Earth Systems, thinking that I would pursue a career as a climate scientist. However, I went on to complete my MBA from New York University. This led me to work for a venture capital firm based in California before becoming an M&A banker at UBS and Evercore.
“While my career shifted in multiple ways, I knew that I wanted to do something bigger than myself and cryptocurrency was part of that journey. Upon becoming close friends in graduate school, in 2018 Hany and I founded 21Shares to simplify the trading of cryptocurrency products in a safe and accessible way, combining our knowledge of institutional asset management and cryptocurrency. It’s been a surreal adventure – not only is it unfortunately far too rare to be a female executive in the fintech and cryptocurrency space – but I’ve led an extraordinary amount of growth in just a few years.
“Our success has been bolstered by investments from star stock pickers like Cathie Wood (who is now on our board of directors!) and Anthony Pompliano, a major figure in the cryptocurrency industry. As women, the challenges of making headway in fintech and specifically in cryptocurrency, take determination and courage. I’m grateful for the women in my life like Cathie who have also shattered the glass ceiling and I hope that in the years to come, I can inspire others to do the same.”
Helen Child, founder at Open Banking Excellence
“I suppose you could say I broke the glass ceiling by the time I was 30, because I was working as a system integrator at ING Barings. But have things changed much since then for women? Is fintech doing enough to make sure women don’t face obstacles in their path to the top?
“To answer that, you just need to look at the stats. Globally, just 7% of fintech founders are women. In the UK, 30% of the fintech workforce is female, with just 17% of senior roles filled by women. Startup funding is also heavily weighted towards men, with a Deloitte study revealing that women fintech founders raised $875 million in the first six months of 2020, whereas the men raised $3.5 billion.
“In the UK, women make up 34% of FTSE 350 boards and around 30% of all leadership roles. Which isn’t totally equal, but is still an improvement, because in 2011, just 9% of women served on FTSE 350 boards. That’s a remarkable change in a very short space of time. So I’m optimistic.
“Today, I collaborate with amazing women (and men) from around the world. At Open Banking Excellence (OBE), we lead global conversations with changemakers and financial innovators that are shaking up finance. When you get great people together, amazing things happen.
“It’s always an honour to pass the mic and sit at the centre of a community.
“I come from a long line of strong, go-getting women. My grandmother was among the first women to get a degree from Oxford University and was a suffragette. I’m continuing her work in more ways than one. Next year, OBE is collaborating with Oxford University, which I think she would have been very pleased about.
“The illustrious Child ladies played an integral role in the history of Child and Co. – the oldest private bank in the United Kingdom and the third oldest in the world. I like to think I’m keeping some of their spirit alive, as well as making sure the fire of innovation is still burning. Child and Co. was the first bank to introduce a pre-printed cheque. I was the Founder and CEO of the first eMoney license issuer in the UK to be awarded licenses by both Visa and Mastercard. Payments are in my DNA, along with the spark of the inspiring Child women.
“When reflecting on my career, I often think of the line about Ginger Rogers doing everything that Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels. That sums it up!”