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 Marieke Flament, Meeri Rebane, Helen Child, Jackie Ward, Smita Gupta and Francesca Hodgeson as they share how they paved the way for others to follow.
Marieke Flament, CEO of Mettle
“There are three key areas of activity that I focus on to support women and minority groups in the workplace.
“D&I programs within the organisation: I help to raise awareness and align the leadership team on the importance of diverse and inclusive teams, putting in place clear objectives to ensure our hiring processes are fit for recruiting diverse candidates.
“As an organisation, we use OKRs to measure progress and help the wider team stay committed and provide training to help raise awareness – for example, unconscious biases.
“I also stress the importance of role modelling (you can’t be what you can’t see) and try to encourage voices from across the business to share their stories.
“Mentorship: I’ve been lucky enough to be mentored and coached by amazing people, so I try to give back and do the same for others. At any point in time I mentor/coach between two and five people and try to dedicate at least one hour per month to each one. Currently, I mentor two BAME women and commit to spending at least one hour per month with each of them. I approach mentorship like coaching ‘What do you need help with?’ and build it from there. I often find that I play a support role or ‘a cheerleader’ – helping others build their confidence and believe in their abilities. I tend to recommend books to read, make intros and share experience and insights on what I’ve learned (often the hard way)!
“Advocate for others: I am often contacted by peers in the tech industry or headhunters looking for great people, and I always take the time to think and refer people from my network – minorities in particular, as I think those are the ones that are not talked about enough. I like to refer good people and be a voice for younger/stellar generations.”
Meeri Rebane, co-founder & CEO of INZMO
“Insurance has traditionally been a male-dominated industry with women underrepresented particularly within leadership positions. There is also a lack of diversity among Insurtech co-founders and even more so in Germany where INZMO is based (German insurtech Friendsurance found only 4% of insurtechs were founded by women and a 2019 Boston Consulting Group study found only 4% of German startups have female founders).
“At INZMO we are committed to ensuring gender diversity, and as a female insurtech founder I’m well aware more needs to be done to attract female talent to the sector. At INZMO we are really proud to have a 50:50 male/female split in our employee base and what’s more five of the eight leadership positions in the business are held by females.
“While we haven’t been specifically targeting women for the positions we’ve been hiring for – it has genuinely been the case that we are appealing to a strong number of extremely talented female candidates who want to work with us because of the number of women already at the organisation, and who occupy the most senior positions. The gender diversity of our organisation is often mentioned as one of the influencing factors for women applying to work here.
“However, we know that to improve the gender balance requires more than just attracting female talent but focusing also on retention and promotion strategies. We actively celebrate the female leaders in our business and we have clearly defined career development and support programmes. We also actively encourage our female leaders to regularly share their knowledge – both about the industry and being a woman in insurtech. We know having visible role models will have a substantial impact on our junior female colleagues. It sets the scene for their progression as well as the reality of the challenges and opportunities present in our sector and how best to navigate these.”
Helen Child, co-founder of OBE
“There are no glass ceilings at OBE and we work hard to give our team the environment they need to thrive. In the past year, we have faced the same challenge as any company: remote working. Yet we’ve used this to inspire a new working model that suits everyone.
“A large part of our culture comes from the international nature of OBE, which was founded to enable a global conversation and inspire the sharing of knowledge in Open Banking and Finance. We have spent years building up trust in the community, so are now able to draw on connections in every corner of the industry and from around the world. OBE recently launched its first Campfire in Brazil with Mastercard, Accenture, the DIT, Central Bank of Brazil, and others. I’m extremely proud of the OBE team: it’s not often you can say you have launched in a country that you’ve never stepped foot in!”
Jackie Ward, VP of Risk & Compliance, BSA and OFAC Officer, at Dwolla
“I’ve always tried to leave things better than I found them and I have worked through some interesting times. I remember pushing back on dress code issues (I had to make sure ‘skorts’ were the right length above the knee…unbelievable) and asking for more diversity and inclusion discussions. Early on in my career, the focus shifted to anti-harassment training. Not quite to the diversity side yet, but eventually to what made us different, sharing, understanding and celebrating those differences.
“Over the years I have enjoyed the focus on having more conversations around inclusion and equity. I think the next phase of DE&I (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) education in the FinTech industry will come in the form of discussions around age as we see a slight shift in the median age of team members. Can you imagine what we can do when we bridge that gap? Unstoppable.
“I’ve had the benefit and blessing of being at a few companies that were ahead of the curve with diversity initiatives, but I come from an industry that always seemed a little behind. Joining the FinTech community was a breath of fresh air! I literally was told one time a while back (and no, it wasn’t while in the military) that it was probably best not to make anyone uncomfortable by talking about my wife or having pictures of us out on my desk. I straight up said that is not ok and unless you can point me to a handbook that says this is true for all employees, I will not be following that advice.
“Through my tenure with that company we had many discussions about unintended disparity in health care benefits and other policies for same-sex marriage. Nobody intended to be discriminatory, but also nobody had pointed out the flaws in their then current policies. Until me! It wasn’t always easy, but it was worth it. Conversely, I had the benefit of a couple companies that so far exceeded expectations in the realm of diversity and inclusion that they left me far better than they found me. Dwolla has been one of those companies for me. I learned things I didn’t know I needed to learn and opened myself to more understanding. Just when you think you are inclusive and support diversity, you realise there is always room for growth.”
Smita Gupta, VP, Global Marketing, Tradeshift
“I’ve always felt a sort of personal responsibility to take care of the people around me. Growing up in India, my father was always very generous to offer a helping hand or provide guidance to those who seeked it. He would tell me, “Knowledge is a piece of treasure; the more you share, the more you draw.” Seeing that giving spirit modelled so naturally, has shaped how I view my role as a leader at work.”
“Diversity and inclusion is incredibly dear to me, and it has been a privilege to have the opportunity to organise formal bias training and education, and showcase the power of outside perspectives. At my previous employer, I served as a global ambassador to the organisation’s women’s leadership program and hosted a monthly speaker series featuring external experts on everything from diversity to innovation, as a way to challenge and expand viewpoints.””While I’m a fervent advocate for workplace diversity and inclusion programs, the real work of pulling up those around us happens outside of a conference room.
“As a leader, I hope to have a positive impact on anyone’s life that I touch – whether that be through sharing experiences, mentoring or coaching, or looking out for new opportunities. I love to see people around me flourish. Throughout my career, I’ve seen incredibly talented women settle for roles that keep them behind the scenes due to a lack of confidence. When I spot untapped talent, I make a point to pay it forward by building those women up, showing the strength in vulnerability and helping them realise that they have the support system around them to advance their careers.
“I encourage women in technology to be deliberate in finding a mentor or sponsor. Like a customer life cycle, our careers have a growth cycle. It is invaluable to identify the people who can provide counsel through the growing pains and champion our success. But most importantly, I encourage women to share the treasure they’ve drawn along the way.”
Francesca Hodgson from Goodbox
“I don’t necessarily see it as a rope ladder, more just leading by example. I think it’s important to show up and treat people how you would want to be treated. Diversity is an important topic and we certainly still have a long way to go. We all need to make a conscious effort to be kind, open, welcoming and as business leaders we should build diverse teams. Certainly, we all have a part to play in continual improvement for the future.”