Fintech, a chance to feminise a male-dominated sector

Tech

Luz Parrondo
Director of the Finance, Accounting & Control Dept.
Director of the Postgraduate in Blockchain and Other DLT Technologies
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It is widely recognised that the financial and technology sectors have a gender diversity problem. Women are under-represented in management positions, and even less so in founding and start-up positions. It may therefore come as a surprise that in the fintech sector, where finance and technology converge, the female presence is slightly higher than in traditional sectors. 

Women may have a better chance of making their mark and impact in fintech, modern and agile companies with a young DNA

This is according to a study by the Spanish Fintech and Insurtech Association, in which we observe that more than half of the 125 startups surveyed believe that in fintech companies there is more flexibility for women to occupy management positions compared to traditional financial businesses. Also, 80% of respondents say that their company promotes work-life balance. However, there is still a long way to go, as the female presence in the fintech environment is 28% and only 2% of these companies have a female CEO.

Gráfico 1 Luz Parrondo
Figure 1. Statistics on women in the fintech sector. Source: Spanish Fintech and Insurtech Association

According to the study, 48% of women have a financial background, 20% have a background in marketing and communication, 16% in law and only 8% in computer engineering. If we look at this last figure, the focus of the inequity problem is once again on education. But this educational deficit does not seem to exist in the financial sphere and, despite this, parity fails miserably. If we take a walk through the faculties of business administration or economics, we can see that women can even outnumber men. 

What other factors besides education can cause inequality? The culture of the environment, family pressure, motherhood, social impositions and the glass ceiling are just some of them

So what factors other than education can cause inequality? The answer could not be more disheartening. There are many. The culture of the environment, family pressure, motherhood, social impositions, the difficulty of conciliation, the glass ceiling, the glass floor... Just to mention some of them. In this article, I would like to talk about one of these factors, just one: excessive "masculinity" in the financial and technological environment. 

The need for role models

My experience as a teacher of finance and technology brings me into contact with young people interested in both fields. While these experiences cannot be generalised, they are interesting to exemplify some of the challenges they face. A couple of years ago, I met a particularly bright student in International Finance. Brilliant both academically and personally. One of those students who you can be sure will go far. Analytical, efficient and passionate about finance. She got a scholarship to study and work in the United States, but after her experience in the financial markets sector, she confessed to me that she would not continue. She felt that the environment was too masculine. And I understood her. 

In addition to this case, many female students have congratulated me for being a finance or technology teacher who is feminine and, at the same time, strong. Curiously, they are surprised to find femininity and strength combined, and I think it is worth asking ourselves why. Of course, there are reference similar to mine, but they do not seem to be very present in their imagination. Perhaps it is because in the early days, women were forced to dress, speak and behave like men in order to compete in a male environment. But it is essential that we maintain our idiosyncrasies and break these stereotypes. Diversity will be possible if we remain true to our femininity. A femininity understood in its broadest sense and, of course, also away from any stereotypes. 

In the imagination of female students, there are no strong female role models. Perhaps because in the beginning, women were forced to dress, speak and behave like men in order to be able to compete in a male environment

The idea that diversity can improve business management is becoming more and more widespread. At this point, I wonder: is it scientifically proven that gender diversity helps companies? If we look at the studies, there is no consensus on whether the inclusion of women on boards of directors or in top management positions has an impact on business performance. While some studies find no relationship at all, other attribute both positive and negative relationships. This disparity of results may be due to a difference in the use of estimation methods, but also to other factors such as the degree of patriarchalism in the country's culture or an insufficient critical mass of women in business and management positions and, therefore, an insufficient "feminisation" of the environment

Fintech without stereotypes

Fintechs, unlike more traditional financial or technological companies, are startups and as such are modern and agile companies with a very young DNA. They are free from the synergies and stereotypes anchored in traditional structures, and allow the entry of new ideas and "ways of doing". Women may have more possibilities in fintechs to make their mark and generate impact. 

The path is full of obstacles and represents a great challenge for both men and women who are calling for change. It is clear that it is not just a question of "feminising" a "masculine" world. Change has to start much earlier and much deeper. We are witnessing a growing number of initiatives in schools and colleges to give visibility to female role models. But we must not forget that the best role models for young women are those they know personally. A teacher, a boss, a colleague at work who was introduced to you at a dinner party... We have to be strong, we have to be feminine (without stereotypes) and we have to be visible. 

ODS Luz Parrondo ENG