LONDON — New figures highlight the fintech industry’s gender diversity problem, with women representing just 29% of staff in the sector.
A “fintech census” carried out by EY and industry body Innovate Finance and published on Thursday highlights the male dominance of the much-feted sector.
Seven out of 10 staff were male at the 245 fintech businesses surveyed, despite 47% of the UK workforce being female.
“I’ve been startled how few women I see at fintech events — often only five or 10 women out of a room of several hundred people,” Fiona Mackenzie, the founder of financial advice startup Marble, told Business Insider. “Under-representation of women is definitely an issue in the sector.”
Marta Krupinska, the co-founder of payments app Azimo, told BI: “I couldn’t count the number of times when I was the only woman in the room. Meeting room. Board room. Conference room. Worst of all, the only woman speaking at high profile events — and these are such a great opportunity to create and enforce role models.”
The “Fintech Census,” commissioned by the Treasury, found the problem is even worse at the higher levels of organisations. Just 17% of senior executives in fintech are women. The report points out that these figures are better than Australia (13% female) and France (9% female) but the balance still leaves a lot to be desired.
‘We need to work hard to encourage more girls to study STEM’
Marieke Flament, European managing director of peer-to-peer payments app Circle, told Business Insider: “Fintech is at the intersection of finance and tech, two industries in which there is a lack of gender balance — it is there therefore unfortunately not a surprise to see those stats.”
The lack of gender diversity in tech has come into focus recently after the leaking of an internal Google memo that claimed women are genetically worse suited to working in tech and engineering. A recent New York Times report on a “culture of harassment” towards women in tech also highlighted the problem.
Flament said the nascent nature of fintech contributes to problems in the sector. She told BI: “As any fast growing company will attest, recruiting when you are growing fast is the number one challenge. Recruiting at scale quickly while keeping a gender-balanced workforce in a very male dominated environment makes the challenge even more complicated.”
Charlotte Crosswell, the CEO of fintech industry group Innovate Finance, which worked on the report, told Business Insider that fintech also struggles with a skills gap for women.
She said: “When we speak to our community, it’s evident that everyone is open to a more diverse workforce, and we are seeing more women entering the profession — but we need to address some major challenges to boost the numbers, such as the STEM skills gap, and encouraging more fintech and financial companies to invest time in supporting and promoting female talent.”
Women make up 47% of the UK workforce but only 14.4% of all people working in STEM — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — occupations.
Krupinska said: “We need to work hard to encourage more girls to study STEM, to encourage more women into fintech, to promote the juniors to become seniors, to support our female leaders to be seen and heard on prominent international forums, representing their companies.”
Innovate Finance highlighted Makers Academy as an example of a company closing the gender gap. The London-based business offers 12-week crash courses in coding and its last cohort of trainees was 51% female.
Evgeny Shadchnev, cofounder and CEO of Makers Academy, told Business Insider: “From our first year we offered a discount to female applicants to make the course slightly more accessible and to send a signal that women, being underrepresented in tech for no good reason, are particularly welcome to apply.”
‘These experiences have made me much more careful about who we look to partner with’
The gender gap has real consequences for those who within the industry. Mackenzie told Business Insider: “One investment banker interrupted a pitch to ask if I had got together — “you know, together together” — with the man I was pitching with. I ended another potential opportunity after the man kept telling me his wife was jealous of our meetings.
“I’m pretty robust, but these experiences have made me much more careful about who we look to partner with, probably no bad thing for a new company.”
She added: “I would however heartily encourage women into fintech as it’s a great sector. I’m thrilled to be developing tech that will improve people’s lives, I’ve had support from some truly excellent people in the fintech community, and industry bodies like Innovate Finance are doing some super things to encourage women in the industry.”
Innovate Finance is currently taking applications for its annual Women in Fintech list, highlighting the talent in the sector, and last year helped launch HM Treasury’s Women in Finance charter. Companies that sign up commit to supporting the progression of women, particularly in senior roles.
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