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Gender diversity in fintech industry still long way off

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The lack of women representation in C-suite roles in the ICT sector has long been documented, and in the fintech sector, real diversity has been found to be some way off.

In fintech, women are likely to occupy roles in human resources (HR) or marketing, and rarely the top leadership positions like their male counterparts, according to new research.

The Fintech Diversity Radar, compiled by global fintech think tank findexable, reveals the majority of women (26%) in the sector hold the position of chief people officer or head of HR, followed by chief marketing officer and chief financial officer. Of all fintech CEOs globally, 5.6% are women, and less than 4% of women hold the title of chief innovation or technology officer.

It also shows that women make up 11% of all board members and 19% of company executives. In addition, only 16 (1.5%) of the 1 032 best-funded private fintech firms globally are founded solely by women, and receive just 1% of total fintech venture funding.

“In many ways, fintech appears to be repeating the behaviours of traditional finance, with added digital spin,” states the report. “This is an opportunity missed.”

“Fintech is arguably the sector best placed to drive economic change, enable equitable distribution of financial services, and increase financial inclusion among marginalised groups – many of whom are themselves women. The commercial case is also clear, and failing to identify, understand and connect to the female market in firms leaves substantial amounts of money on the table.”

Simon Hardie, CEO and co-founder of findexable, adds: “Global prosperity is more evenly distributed than at any point in history, yet our data shows the massive imbalance between men and women in innovative financial services firms. Fintech is a key enabler in the digital economy and the sector plays an outsize role in reducing economic exclusion and powering digital transformation.

“The data bears witness to the birth of a new ‘1% club’ in the amount of funding raised by sole women-founded firms – a number that should be celebrated and commiserated in equal measure. The data also reveals how globalisation of technology and financial services is playing out: fast-growing markets score better by proportion and numbers of women founders and women in key positions − numbers that are a mirror image of the distribution of global venture funding.”

The findexable study benchmarks gender diversity in global fintech, examining the role that women play or don’t play, and how the industry can build more balanced, inclusive and representative businesses that are fit for the future.

It’s compiled using data from just over 1 000 of the world’s best-funded privately-owned fintech firms, 36 in-depth interviews with women founders and senior executives from large financial service providers. Insights are also drawn from a survey of 250 employees working across the financial services landscape.

Beacons of light

Despite the bleak picture of women leadership representation in fintech, the report points to some bright spots in terms of emerging markets outpacing the Western markets.

Research insights show the African continent has the highest proportion of female board members, highlighting the Middle East hosts the highest share of female executive and CEO roles.

The Middle East has the highest percentage of fintech firms with women-only executive teams (3.94%) in the sample.

Female CEOs are more likely to call Dubai, London, São Paulo, Buenos Aires or Lagos home, it states. Furthermore, Dubai is home to eight fintech companies with at least one woman founder, second only to San Francisco, and five firms with a female CEO, second to London.

In addition, the number of companies founded by women has grown as a percentage over the past decade, with momentum shifting away from North America and Asia, and towards Latin America, the Middle East, and to a lesser extent, Europe.

Monica Eaton-Cardone, co-founder and COO of Chargebacks911, states: “This report is a welcome addition to the growing body of evidence that things need to change in the technology industry.

“Although progress is being made, statistics citing that only 1.5% of fintech companies are founded solely by women highlights deep, systemic problems. However, there are signs of hope in the progress being made in the Middle East and Africa, where significantly more women are present in boardrooms.”

While the green shoots are welcome, the research report notes the goal is that by 2030, 30% of fintechs will be founded or led by women.

Denise Gee, co-founder of findexable, concludes: “From today, all of us − from government to regulators, ecosystems and financial services firms of all sizes − need to ‘dig in’ (not lean in) to make the case and accelerate the progress of women and diverse teams.”

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