diverse business meeting

Why we need more Black female leaders in the tech industry

diverse business meeting

Diversifying the tech industry can sometimes feel like a game of snake; it’s slow, clunky, and you often run into obstacles. But change is required – for both the benefit of the industry and for society as a whole.

Research reported in IT PRO found that just 1 in every 6 IT professionals are female. This figure is even lower for Black women, who are significantly underrepresented in the tech and IT industry, with recent research by the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT and Coding Black Females finding that Black women make up only 0.7% of IT professionals in the UK - despite being 1.8% of the workforce.

Tim Cook, Apple’s Chief Executive, recently told the BBC that there was no good reason for the lack of women in tech and that the industry needs more diverse voices around the decision-making table. Why, then, are we still finding ourselves lacking diverse representation at the top tier?

Having Black female leaders to look up to as role models and inspire the next generation would, in my view, make a drastic difference to the industry’s culture and encourage more Black talent to join the tech world. There’s the saying that ‘you have to see it to be it’, and Black women can often find themselves in the minority at work with little to no representation in senior positions. This matters for a variety of reasons. It could create a sense that the employee in the earliest stages of their career doesn’t belong in the industry, or that their progression will be limited. It can also reaffirm a sense of imposter syndrome, which is shown to hit Black women hardest as highlighted in this BBC article.

Representation matters. A PwC report found that 78% of students surveyed couldn’t name a famous woman working in tech. For young people considering which career path to take, having role models in the industry could be the difference between pursuing a line of study and avoiding it.

Speaking to someone who has progressed within your chosen industry – especially if you share similar backgrounds - is hugely beneficial. Likewise, being mentored by someone senior who understands your life experiences and can provide guidance at the start of their career journey encourages young talent to aim high, knowing that their career goals are achievable. Sponsorship is also hugely beneficial for Black women, as it ensures they are being championed in conversations around career progression and development opportunities with decision-makers in the workplace.

More Black female leaders are also needed for the benefit of the technology itself. Gender bias is already a problem in the design of a variety of products, as evidenced by this other BBC article, and continuing to lack diverse voices could create a greater divide between different stakeholder groups and miss an opportunity to provide for those, regardless of ethnicity, who may  really benefit from technology’s progress.

There is no doubt that inclusivity improves innovation – and the more diverse the industry is, the more creative it becomes. Without diversity in our organisations, we risk falling into patterns of group-think. Whereas, teams who have a range of backgrounds have greater awareness of different cultural nuances which will shape their behaviours and actions. Having more diversity within the industry ensures that different opinions and life experiences are being reflected and represented in the products, instead of them being a homogenous replication of one lived experience.

Technology has become a major part of our lives, but it needs a range of voices and experiences to build something for the benefit of us all. If we do not see more progress towards diverse and inclusive organisations, the industry will be unable to serve those who it is meant to and that is ALL of humanity without exception.

About the author

Yetunde HofmannYetunde Hofmann is a board level executive leadership coach and mentor, global change, inclusion and diversity adviser, author of Beyond Engagement and founder of SOLARIS – a pioneering new leadership development programme for Black women. Find out more at http://www.solarisleadership.com/


female office worker on laptop

Three tips to succeed in the DeFi industry

female office worker on laptop

While I have been interested in blockchain tech even before 2019, the pandemic really pushed me down the decentralized finance (DeFi) rabbit hole.

I found the technology, innovation and potential in the industry to be absolutely astounding. While my background originated in advertising and multimedia production, 9 to 5 jobs never suited me, so the move to freelancing and entrepreneurship came naturally. This then led me to my current position as CBO at Chainge Finance.

The opportunities in DeFi seem never ending. The industry is fast-moving and innovative at all times, which makes it a great area for those who enjoy learning and being challenged. Personally, as soon as I deep-dove into the world of cryptocurrency and blockchain, I was hooked. Moving into the industry full time was not as challenging as I expected, although the space is (for now) male-dominated. Around 75% of all crypto users are male and only 25% female. An educated guess would be that the ratio (gender-wise) when it comes to people working in the field is about the same - which can be perceived as a rough environment for women first entering this domain. As in other already familiar instances, women have to work a bit harder to prove themselves and gain their peers’ and users’ trust.

Needless to say, anyone considering pursuing a career in the blockchain industry has to have strong nerves, resistance to aggressive online feedback (to put it mildly), resilience and an extremely goal-oriented vision. You have to be able to cut-out all of the white noise, no matter how loud, and focus on the long-term objectives. Two steps forwards, one step back is how it usually goes. This overwhelmingly fascinating industry is still in its infancy, therefore it is also characterized by unpredictability and stressful situations every step of the way.

However, during this time I’ve found a rhythm that works for me. So, here are my tips for succeeding in the DeFi industry:

Spend A LOT of time educating yourself - I spend around 2-3 hours per day every day getting-up-to-speed. The industry is developing so fast it’s almost scary; keeping track of everything that’s going on will feel impossible. Don’t stress. It’s just a continuous learning process. Start with well established experts and companies in the field who publish educational material and then work your way down to specialized media and crypto twitter to hear the voice of different communities.

Be creative/resourceful - while creativity is not something we’d traditionally associate with finance, DeFi allows for a combination of technology, creativity, and finance. Coming up with new ideas and potential solutions always adds value to the project you’re a part of. Even if it might seem impossible to implement, give it a go - you’d be surprised at how much support you’ll receive and where the right idea at the right time might take you. As corny as it may sound, DeFi is in a sense synonymous with “making the impossible possible”.

Find your network - the DeFi industry heavily relies on the idea of community. While, of course, we have competitors, the industry as a whole is very open to discussing & addressing issues, new concepts and trying out new things. Because well, everything is new and everyone is excited to be part of it. Discussing pain points or newly developed tools with people can open your eyes to a variety of new ideas and methodologies. This also makes educating yourself more of a social experience.

While it’s taken me a couple years to find the right balance, I find working in the DeFi industry very rewarding. I’m lucky to work at a company that stands as the most liquid Web 3 trading venue on the market, meaning that I get to be involved with new and innovative tech every day and an amazingly supportive community. There are numerous opportunities out there for people of all backgrounds to excel in this field. Personally I’d love to see more women push the boundaries in this industry, and am very much looking forward to see what comes next for DeFi.

Oana BatranAbout the author

Chainge Finance’s CBO, Oana Batran.

10 years of advertising have shaped Oana into a multilingual, multicultural brand builder. By the side of international corporations and illustrious advertising agencies, she sparked hundreds of successful integrated campaigns and brand strategy programs. She is a strong believer in the emotional branding model, relying on a unique symbiotic approach made up of market research, archetype-based strategy and creative direction.

Diving headfirst into the blockchain world as Chainge Finance CBO, her efforts are currently revolving around the segmentation and contextualization of the yet untapped DeFi market.

group of young employees

Advocating career development through apprenticeships

group of young employees

There are currently 26 apprenticeship standards in IT and tech, covering everything from network engineering to cyber security.

Apprenticeships can provide an ideal first step on the career ladder in tech; yet we are still struggling to attract more women to these roles.

The statistics make stark reading. Only 26% of the tech workforce are women, and what’s more,  56% of women don’t return to their jobs in IT after having children. How can we encourage more women to take up these opportunities?

Back to school

It’s clear that the issue begins in the classroom. According to the WISE campaign, only 8% of women progress to a Level 4+ STEM qualification and only 24% of women then progress to the STEM workforce. However, employers are now recognising that apprenticeships can bridge this gap between skills and diversity. Not only that, but they can build a talent pipeline for the future.

Ritika Mital, one of our 2021 ITP Award winners, agrees: “I believe encouraging school students to dream about a career in STEM roles - engineering, technology, and computer science is the key to increasing the percentage of women in this industry. At present young girls don’t see themselves working in unconventional roles and hence do not even try to venture into STEM roles. Once the idea of a career in the STEM industry is implanted in the minds of young girls from their school days, it will be possible for them to envisage and build their own careers in this unconventional industry.”

The business benefits of apprenticeships

With funding available in the UK to take on apprentices, they are an appealing option for employers. British businesses are only required to pay 5% towards the cost of training and assessing apprentices, with the government paying the rest. They are increasingly becoming more appealing to job seekers too, having shaken off their traditional stigma - combined with rising cost of living and university fees soaring.

Apprenticeships, however, are not limited just to young people starting their careers. They can be used for retraining or upskilling existing staff too. According to the National Apprenticeship Service:

  • 86% of employers said apprenticeships have helped them develop skills relevant to their organisation
  • 78% of employers said apprenticeships helped them improve productivity
  • 74% of employers said apprenticeships helped them improve the quality of their product or service

Apprenticeships and career progression

Apprenticeships can be a great springboard for a career change. Take Ritika Mital as a prime example. With a background in HR, she relocated from India to the UK in 2020 and took up an apprenticeship in telecoms. During that time, she has progressed and is now holding a senior role in the business.

Upskilling existing staff

Funding is also available for existing staff who want to take on an apprenticeship. The winner of the ITP SME Apprentice of the Year Award 2021 is another great example. Jacob Whitby was already employed but wanted to expand his knowledge and skillset. After an assessment with his manager an appropriate apprenticeship was found, and he is now learning to become a cyber security specialist.

Attracting a diverse workforce

Despite this, it’s still increasingly difficult to attract a diverse workforce into IT and tech apprenticeships. In the past year we’ve hired 60 female apprentices on behalf of one of our partners by:

  • Approaching schools and colleges to find talent, rather than waiting for them to find us
  • Re-examining job specs and removing some of the pre-requisites for the roles. Placing a higher value on attitude and personality rather than previous experience (skills can be taught)
  • De-coding job adverts and descriptions to make the language gender-neutral so as not to deter female applicants
  • Ensuring the recruitment process is inclusive and accessible to all - catering for neuro-diverse candidates or those with additional requirements
  • Showcasing and raising the profile of role models within the business to inspire others
  • Establishing mentoring programmes to support more junior team members and create a safe, inclusive environment

It’s clear that there is still much work to be done, but we truly believe that apprenticeships are the key to plugging the tech skills gap in the UK.

About the author

Charlotte-GoodwillCharlotte Goodwill is CEO of the ITP. Joining the organisation in 2017, Charlotte previously held the role of Head of Apprenticeships where she was responsible for addressing the UK technical skills gap within the telecoms and digital industries. With a commercial background, Charlotte joined the ITP to grow the Level 3 & 4 Digital Apprenticeship standards across businesses, and to encourage companies to grow their IT, technical and engineering teams through apprenticeships. As a result of her hard work the ITP’s apprenticeship scheme has grown by over 75%. Charlotte’s focus as CEO is on diversifying the digital workforce, advocating career development through apprenticeships and membership and serving as a voice for the industry.  Despite working full time and raising a young family, last year she graduated from the Open University after six years of studying with a BSc first class honours degree in psychology and counselling.

Women on a desktop

Gender gap in STEM subjects remains high

Women on a desktop

Sarah Gilchriest from tech startup Circus Street on STEM Day and the crucial role businesses can play in getting more women into tech.

Despite receiving a lot of attention in recent years, the gender gap in STEM subjects remains high. Only around 35% of graduates are women - a figure that has remained largely unchanged for the past five years. When you break it down to subjects such as computer science and engineering and technology the statistics are even worse - 16% of graduates are women. STEM Day is the perfect time for us to reflect on why there is such underrepresentation and consider how we can do more to redress the balance. What is clear is that the current approach isn’t working.

The lack of women taking on STEM subjects is cited as the number one reason there is such a gender imbalance in the UK’s tech industry. Only one in four people who work in the startup scene are women, with the number of female tech CEOs and founders depressingly low. There is an element of chicken and egg. How can young women and other underrepresented groups see themselves pursuing careers in tech or engineering if these industries look overwhelmingly male and white? On the other hand, how can we address diversity issues if there aren’t enough qualified people?

The reality is that we all make incredibly important career choices, usually without realising it, at a very young age when we choose what subjects to study in school. In fact, the factors that influence our choices are often engrained at an even earlier age. I’ve recently had first-hand experience of this when I talked to my 13-year-old daughter about what career she might like to have. She has already made many sweeping judgments about what she does and doesn’t want to do. In all likelihood she will change her mind as she learns more, however, many young people stick to their guns or simply do not learn enough in time to challenge their own decisions. Consequently, a lot of people end up set on certain career paths in their teenage years. By the time we realise what we actually want to do it can seem too late or difficult to change course.

However, blaming the education system isn’t going to solve the problem nor is it the full story. There is actually a lot more businesses can do to improve diversity and consequently encourage women and other underrepresented groups to study STEM subjects with a view to working in the tech industry. A major way this can be achieved is through a nationwide upskilling scheme.

Upskilling offers people a second chance to develop their career in the direction they want without the cost and impracticality of going back into full time education.

People can be guilty of thinking of upskilling as simply learning a new trade. It’s not just that - it’s about giving people the skill sets, mindsets and behaviours that they need to develop a huge range of skills applicable to different circumstances. It’s a continuous and nuanced process. We aren’t necessarily talking about training legions of fully-fledged data scientists, for example, we’re saying that we need to give everybody basic data skills so they can apply this knowledge to their own professional circumstances. These individuals may go on to learn coding, marketing or IT skills that combine to make them a highly skilled worker in their field.

In essence, through upskilling, individuals can replicate the core skills businesses look for from STEM graduates. If we applied upskilling nationwide via businesses we would give everybody an opportunity to develop into the careers they want. It will inevitably mean more women and other underrepresented groups will be able to get into the tech industry. If young students see people that look and sound like them in the tech industry they will be more likely to consider it a real option and choose subjects to meet that ambition.

Sarah GilchriestAbout the author

Sarah Gilchriest is Global COO of Circus Street. For the past seven years she has helped to lead the international expansion of Circus Street. She originally joined as a marketing consultant in 2016 and in the time since has overseen Circus Street expand five times larger to support a range of global companies including Nike, Adidas, Hershey’s, P&G and Coca Cola.

If you would like to find out more about Sarah you follow her on twitter and LinkedIn.

My journey into the dynamic world of indirect tax technology

I am a business development director for Vertex – a global organisation which operates in the rapidly growing sector of tax technology. The company focuses entirely on indirect tax; we’re unique in that we specialise in one area of tax, as opposed to working across all the different tax types.

Before joining the company, I was a tax consultant for over 15 years, working with lots of technology platforms to support brands such as Shell, Paramount, and Viacom. I had a huge understanding of the market and knew the major players in the tax technology sector, but I wasn’t doing anything new. I joined Vertex in February 2021 as I was excited about what they were doing in the SAP space.

Currently, I support sales efforts in EMEA working with the ‘big four’ as well as small boutique technology companies such as Innovate Tax, Ryan and DMA. I support the sales cycle by helping to identify what a customer needs and what is happening within their business which requires tax technology; this is usually because they are embarking on their financial transformation journey and/or moving to a Cloud ERP.

It’s a fun and varied role because the challenges organisations are facing today are very different. Some businesses are pivoting due to industry and economic changes whereas others are just needing to improve tax processes to improve audit performance or to keep up with changing tax authority requirements. My favourite part of the role will always be seeing a happy customer at the end who has been able to meet their organisational goals.

How did you get into the FinTech space?

After graduating with a master’s degree in tax, I worked at KPMG in tax provisions and controls with the banking industry. I was then recruited by tax software provider Sabrix – a start-up in 2002 which really fit my personality. As you can imagine, being in a start-up is extremely dynamic as you get to wear lots of different hats. My journey there began in tax research and content and then I moved in to product development as the product manager for VAT and Excise solutions, as well as working on a custom development with SAP.

I left in 2007 and started consulting, moving from California to London to join a global rollout of SAP for Shell. It was the largest SAP program at the time. Being a consultant provided me with the opportunity to work with lots of different products in a wide variety of industries and gain global exposure.

What’s the biggest challenge you’re dealing with currently in your career?

For me, it’s staying focused as there are so many shiny new objects and opportunities out there, from changes in the law through to the unique ways that the business environment is evolving and putting a larger burden on tech solutions. While it’s fascinating to see this pace of change it can be a little overwhelming.

There is a lot to do, a lot of opportunity in this space and quite frankly a lot of new technology companies popping up. I am proud to work at Vertex, who has been in the indirect tax technology space for 40 years – they are pushing hard to remain in front and stay relevant in the face of this changing landscape.

Where do you find support in the FinTech world?

It’s about the people that you know to a certain extent.

As a consultant, I was lucky enough to meet many different people and work with a wide range of software and consulting companies. I like connecting with others to offer my support and in turn, those people will do the same for me; whether it’s helping a colleague at one of the ‘big four’ find a new director or helping a boutique consulting firm find a new project.

If you are open to it and work to maintain contacts and relationships, the FinTech world will support you. In tax technology, it’s pretty close knit, which is fantastic if you act with integrity, welcome opportunity, and continually improve the breadth and depth of your knowledge. When you give a bit of yourself, it’s amazing what you get in return.

What advice would you give other women who want to work in FinTech?

Get connected.

I would love to pretend that it isn’t more difficult to be a woman in this space but if I am honest, it’s still a man’s world to a certain extent. Connecting with other women working in FinTech or in the tech industry via platforms such as LinkedIn or trade shows can help you build a support network. ‘Spotlight for woman in business’ on LinkedIn or the UK organisation ‘Woman in tech’ are some examples of the groups available to join. My advice would be to find women who are similar to you in terms of career and aspirations and lean on each other.

Stay current.

Technology is constantly changing.  I am not suggesting that you need to be an expert in emerging technologies such as edge computing, AI or blockchain to be in the FinTech space but awareness and how it impacts an organisation is important.

Seek and be positive change.

No matter if it’s in your contact group or within your organisation, always push for constant improvement and be ready for what’s coming next. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and acknowledge what you don’t know; after all, these are great leadership qualities to have.

As for personal change, if you are unsure of the direction your career is taking, consider a careers coach. This can not only help you consider changes within your career but also to handle challenges that are happening within the company. Working with someone who is external and impartial can help you gain fresh insights and equip you with new tools to navigate your career.

About the author

Wendy Fischnaller is business development director at Vertex – a tax technology provider. She has carved a successful career within the fintech space after graduating with a masters degree in tax.

Want to advance your career in tech? It’s all about trust

Woman in tech, and indeed a woman of colour in tech, it’s true that I am often in the minority in the different teams and companies for which I have worked. But equally, I believe that the situation for women in tech is better now than ever.

Technology is an attractive industry for women to work in. There are exciting opportunities to progress and learn, companies are generally much more progressive in their attitudes, and while discrimination still exists, there is much less than there was.

But are women able to advance in their tech careers as quickly as men? I don’t believe there are specific barriers that prevent this, but there are steps that women can take to help the process.

Tech – an attractive sector for women?

At school, I loved arts and science, which led me to want a career in architecture. My Masters was in the fundamentals of design which opened a whole new realm of work as tech was already seeming like an attractive industry.

It felt cool, and it felt new. Apple and Microsoft were creating increasingly designed products, making it attractive and aspirational as a career. It was an industry full of innovation and potential, and even at that stage in my career, I didn't see any barriers to my joining.

In 2022, more women are entering technology than ever, but perhaps not yet in the techier roles. There is nothing wrong with women working in marketing, sales, product management, support or elsewhere in technology. They are still in the industry, and there is no need for women to be made to feel bad because they aren't working as a coder, developer or engineer.

But I do think that will change over time. Computer science is still relatively modern in schools; in my experience, it is just as accessible to girls as it is to boys. Very few girls studied science subjects a generation ago, but that has changed. So will the study of technology and subsequent entrants to the workforce.

Progressing in technology

As a woman of colour in technology, I've been asked if I have ever faced discrimination or prejudice. While I've no doubt that still goes on, in my career, I've been lucky that I haven't come up against that. In Bombay and Zurich, I've worked for progressive companies prioritising talent and hard work over other factors.

They have had a strong ethos that people from all backgrounds are welcome. This goes back to the founder, the type of workplace they want to create, and then the company culture they instil. When they get this right – and in my case, they have – any differences quickly disappear.

But to progress, women certainly need to prove themselves. I found that identifying a strategy for progression really helps. Making a list or Venn diagram – what you are good at, what you like to do and what you want to do in future – can be of huge assistance when looking to advance your career.

For me, it's about trust. The higher you climb, the more trust is needed. Your employer must trust that you can do the job you want, so you must work hard to gain that trust. But it undoubtedly goes both ways – it's a trust transaction between both parties, and the employer needs to demonstrate to the employee that it's the right place for them to work.

Tips for success

Beyond building and growing trust, I can offer three specific tips that can help women advance in the industry:

  1. Find a mentor to help guide you. This can be a colleague, boss or someone you don't even work with – they will be invaluable in helping you in areas such as making decisions and managing conflicts. Furthermore, always keep learning. Skills are not always sufficient. You need all-round awareness across the business to progress. Observing my co-workers has played an important role in my personality development which prepared me for the growth and opportunities I wanted.
  2. Make notes of achievements or learning. Every complimentary email, every piece of praise, and notable achievement are great for boosting confidence. You can go back and review this personal record of achievement when you are looking to prepare for a new role or even if you are having a bad day generally.
  3. Don’t be shy. If your personality type is to be shy, that's fine, but do not let it stop you from asking important questions. Can I have a raise? Can I move teams? What do I need to do to get that promotion? You won't get anywhere by not asking these questions, so always pluck up the coverage to do so.

I am confident that it is getting easier and more common for women and women of colour to work in technology. My own experiences have been positive, and anecdotally I think there has been much progress.

But that doesn’t mean the job is done. By focusing on growing two-way trust and having a clear idea of where they want to get to, women can continue their technology career progression more smoothly.

About the author

Shivani Visen is Head of Design and Product Manager at augmented intelligence solutions provider, Squirro. She started at Squirro as a UX Designer, and after several promotions now heads up the design function, which she has grown into a high-performing entity within the organisation.

If you want to find out more about Shivani, you can connect with her on LinkedIn.

Why we need more women in cybersecurity

and the obstacles that are getting in the way…

If you were to ask somebody to picture a person who works in cybersecurity, they would likely fall back on the Hollywood stereotype of an individual hunched over their laptop in a dark room – and nine times out of 10, that person would probably be a man.

Cybersecurity’s portrayal in the media has played a large role in the poor representation of women working in the space, but this depiction is sadly not too far away from the truth.

Women make up just 36% of cybersecurity workers in the UK. There are several factors to blame for this, but what it ultimately boils down to is accessibility.

Obstacles in my career

Growing up I thought I wanted to be a solicitor, but after spending some time working at a local firm, I soon realised it was not the career path for me. Instead, I pursued my keen interest in IT – largely inspired by police and crime dramas I watched as a child – and enrolled in Forensic Computing at De Montfort University in Leicester.

This decision instantly raised eyebrows at school. I was told by my headteacher it was not what was expected of me and asked whether I was sure of my choice. Instead of encouragement, I was met by judgement and a clear lack of support.

This soon became a pattern in my career. In my first job out of university, I was immediately faced with biases and was repeatedly told I was not a good fit for the role, just because I was a woman.

Imposter syndrome is almost inevitable when being subjected to such scrutiny, especially when you look around the office and realise you are one of few women in the room.

This imbalance starts in the recruitment process. In workplaces with a male dominated workforce,  hiring managers are naturally more likely to be inclined to consider men over women, even if they have the same skills set.

The world is growing more inclusive, but the tech industry, and the cyber space in particular, is still lagging behind. That is not to say I have not had any support at all, though. Over the course of my career I have been fortunate enough to work with some really fantastic individuals, some of whom I still lean on today

When I joined MHR at the beginning of 2022 I instantly felt at home. The work culture is extremely inclusive and it is empowering to be recognised as the Information Security Manager I am, and not being overlooked as I have been in the past because of my gender.

Diversity improves collaboration

The traditional approach to cybersecurity has been extremely linear, but as technology evolved and the arena grew more complex, the scope has broadened. In the past, a single way of thinking may have sufficed, but today there is a real need for varying ideas, perspectives, and collaboration.

As human beings, the way we approach a challenge depends solely on past experiences, our background, and our upbringing. Therefore, teams that are made up of very similar people will inevitably produce very similar ideas. When the diversity pool is widened, new perspectives are introduced and it gives way to a much wider range of ideas.

Businesses that embrace diversity and encourage more women – and other marginalised groups – to join their ranks will benefit from stronger work output as a result.

The time for change is now

The cybersecurity space is expanding rapidly and after the pandemic forced so many business processes online, security teams must grow to keep up with demand.

There is absolutely no shortage of jobs for individuals looking to get into cybersecurity at the moment. The shift to online has made business owners pay more attention to their digital landscape, and in many cases companies will rely on their IT department to run smoothly.

Now is the perfect time for the tides to change, and to introduce more female talent to the cybersecurity space. Jobs are there to be filled, so work must be done to encourage young girls and support their decision should they choose tech is the career path they want to go down.

A good place to start would be improving the representation of female cybersecurity workers in the media. Having somebody to look up to, and somebody that you can see qualities of yourself in, is crucial when it comes to creating the belief that you can do something – and it will hopefully play a role in inspiring the next generation of women in tech.

Read all about MHR’s cybersecurity support here: https://bit.ly/3e69ERQ

About the author

Emma Doyley, Information Security Manager at MHR

Bucking the trend: Female leadership in the accountancy sector

Professional accountancy has always attracted an equitable split of men and women at entry level, but the balance of female representation becomes biased towards males at higher levels, especially in senior leadership teams.

A recent study by Accountancy Age found that just one fifth of partners in the industry were female.

This trend is not unique to accountancy, however: a report by The Pipeline in 2020 found that there are more CEO’s called Peter in the UK than there are female CEO’s leading FTSE 350 companies. While things are changing, there is still a long way to go to achieve equality when it comes to gender.

The lack of gender representation in senior roles is due to a myriad of causes and can become a self-fulfilling prophecy; the lack of representation creating both bias from the top down and bottom up in terms of accessibility to roles, promotion and progression opportunities. As an industry, the competitive and presenteeism culture of some accountancy firms can be prohibitive for women, who still shoulder over 60% of the “unpaid care work” required to manage family life. A lack of flexibility in working hours to manage this burden, and unfair prejudice against flexible working within corporate firms, can create a challenging environment for women to secure senior and leadership roles. The benefits of a flexible environment are not limited to women, it provides opportunities for everyone to lead a more balanced life.

Ashcroft is working to change this. We are already well above the industry average: half of our senior management team is female. By setting a precedent of better female representation across all areas of the business, from recruitment through mentoring to management, it is our aim to inspire, empower and support the more junior members of the team from the moment they embark on their career with us. It is our shared hope with this approach that we encourage greater ambitions, enable effective mentoring and deliver incredible value for our clients through the benefit of varied experiences and perspectives in their service.

For our more junior team members, it is our aim to open as many career pathways for them as possible. We do this through an industry-recognised technical training programme which is open to everyone, and provides staff with access to train in every department of our business, rather than adopting a siloed approach to training and pigeonholing our staff as they start their career.

Chloe Langford, trainee accountant at Ashcroft Partnership, who joined the firm in June 2022, commented: “As a woman at the beginning of my accountancy career, one of the factors that was key to my decision to join Ashcroft was seeing a genuine balance of gender equality and the opportunity to work with female role models in senior positions. This is a model I hope to see emulated across the sector as my career progresses.”

This structure ensures that everyone gains well-rounded experience and confidence in tax, accounting and auditing, and the strong female presence in our leadership team also means it is very likely that trainees will have the regular opportunity to work with or be mentored by women in senior roles during their time at Ashcroft.

Our approach to talent retention and attraction means we have the right person in the right role, regardless of gender. This seeks to foster a culture that encourages open dialogue between every employee and all departments. We are proud of the work we have done in creating this inclusive environment and recognise that it is a continuous process which necessitates care to maintain. Our culture is one of our most valuable assets as a business, and we want it to be a place where everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential, be inquisitive and to keep learning.

About the author

Fran Reid is partner at Cambridge-based boutique accountancy firm, Ashcroft, and leads its apprenticeship programme. Fran is passionate about ensuring that junior accountants are properly trained and have access to continuous professional development. She has worked as a senior level accountant since becoming a partner in 1996.

Top tips for women in fintech on how to build your career

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A Summer 2022 report shows that more than three-quarters of women working in fintech in the UK believe their organisation is inclusive.

This is a positive development for the industry because more women thriving in fintech means a more thriving fintech sector in the future. Here are 10 top tips for women in fintech on how to build your career.

  1. Believe in your talent

A report published in the summer of 2022 by EY has shown that 63% of female respondents believe that their gender impacts how they are perceived professionally and their roles as leaders in an industry that is still male dominated. It’s important that we retain confidence in our professional capabilities and talent! A working paper released in July 2022 by the IMF has shown that the percentage of women now on executive boards is slightly higher at more recently founded fintech firms than traditional firms, showing positive signs of a changing industry.

  1. Cast your net as widely as possible

The people you work with now will be your clients, colleagues or associates of the future – so widen your network and contact list as much as possible. Fintech events are a great place to network, whether in person or virtually, along with conferences or start-up open houses, and of course industry networking events.

  1. Create a digital presence

Make use of the  many free professional social networks, such as LinkedIn, which enable you to build your digital presence. Connect with those who work in the industry both in your city and globally, connect with fintech thought leaders, share your views in discussions and even uncover exciting job opportunities. In the US, employers are now even recruiting through the code hosting platform GitHub, demonstrating how beneficial having a digital presence can be.

  1. Mentoring

Having a mentor can help you understand the wider fintech industry through another person’s perspective and provides a valuable learning experience. It’s important to have at least one visible role model who looks like you, talks like you and has a similar background. If opportunities also arise for you to be a mentor to the younger generation take them as it’s a fantastic way to develop your own leadership skills and positively impact and motivate other young women starting in the industry.

  1. Be the change you want to see

Don’t be afraid to share your success stories or moments of your career journey in webinars, at workshops, networking events and public forums. This will aid in creating supportive, professional networks that women in fintech currently lack, helping to reshape the landscape for women in the sector and help drive change.

  1. Be aware of trends in the fintech industry

Today over 70% of digitally active adults in the UK use a fintech service. According to a Forbes article published on 30 March 2022, the most prominent fintech trends in 2022 you must know are:

  1. Embedded Finance: Used to integrate financial technologies.
  2. Web3: Considered the internet of the future, it decentralises finance using blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.
  3. Super App: A set of apps that will offer various fintech services like making cashless payments and managing investments.

Being aware of key trends in the industry  is key to navigating and planning your own career journey.

  1. Keep up with regulations

Whilst certain parts of the fintech industry are still outside of the regulatory scope, it has become increasingly important to understand regulations and rules such as general data protection, anti-money laundering policies, ‘KYC’ compliance requirements, and PCI DSS compliance. Ensure your reading lists includes the key updates and many law firms and compliance consultants produce updates which you can sign up to.

  1. Flexibility

It’s amazing to have a specialisation, but this can sometimes lead to a narrow focus instead of embracing change in an ever-growing industry, so be flexible. Your background also doesn’t have to define your entry and progression in your fintech career.

  1. Get creative

Contributing on a blog, podcast, or social media channel that creates fintech related content will help you stay updated with the latest fintech trends and these out-of-the-box ideas can boost your CV.

  1. Find your champions and cheerleaders

These are the people that can lift you up when you excel and catch you when you fall. Your support network will take you a long way, and will be pivotal in supporting you in your focus on tech. I have some great colleagues, partners and mentors who work within the fintech domain and if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be doing what I am today!

About the author

Yasmin JohalYasmin is a Lawyer at CMS and is one of the few females specialising in the regulatory aspects of FinTech. She provides expert advice to all players within the FinTech ecosystem, and helps shape trends and developments in the FinTech industry internationally. She has worked across the UK and US financial markets, helping deploy technological innovation, and frequently authors industry leading thought leadership on areas of financial regulation, FinTech and innovation. Yasmin is a Tech speaker and an advocate for increasing Female and BAME representation in Tech, and speaks at a variety of events and on podcasts, on a range of topics from FinTech, D&I and career development. Yasmin was a #TechWomen100 2020 Award Winner; recognised for her work in Fintech and has also been recognised as a Standout 35 winner in the Women in Fintech Powerlist 2020 with Innovate Finance.

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Ten techniques to combat stress and anxiety at work

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Article provided by Liz Walker, HR Director, Unum

Practice mindfulness

Many of the techniques mentioned involve mindfulness, which is a popular method of combatting anxiety. Mindfulness can stop you worrying by bringing your attention back to the present through acknowledging your worries and letting them go.

Mindfulness allows you to get in touch with your emotions and recognise how you feel.

Take a step back

Viewing thoughts and worries as if they are show or film you’re observing can be a good way to disconnect yourself from them and to finally put them out of your mind.

Accept strange thoughts

We all have strange thoughts from time to time, such as ‘what if I scream during a presentation?’. These thoughts are natural and will jump out from time to time. When this happens instead of focusing on it, describe it to yourself as the curiosity it is and move on. Remember, our minds are creative with lots of little thoughts floating about.

Recognise false alarms

Everyone has the sudden worry they didn’t lock the front door or left the iron on, however rarely do these things actually materialise. When you find yourself thinking along these lines and notice your body responding with a rapid heartbeat, recognise the situation for what it is. Acknowledge the thoughts and sensations but let them pass.

Positive Self Talk

Often, we’re far harder on ourselves than we would be on others. Try to talk positively to yourself rather than putting yourself down, like you would if you were talking to a child or friend who was nervous. Telling yourself phrases such as ‘this feeling will pass’ and ‘I will be ok’ could help to reassure you and reduce stress or worry.

Set Aside Worry Time

Sometimes worries can niggle at us and prevent us from doing things we should be doing. When this happens jot down the reason you’re feeling anxious and resolve to think it through later. By the time you get to doing that it’s likely many of the worries you’ve noted won’t be an issue anymore.

Question Your Thoughts

Feeling anxious can make our thoughts spiral out of control and think outlandish things. When you find this happening try to question your thoughts by asking yourself such questions as ‘is this worry realistic?’ and ‘what is the worst possible outcome and would it really be that bad?’.

Learn to Say No

Don’t take on too much, if you’re overloaded with work and extremely busy but given more work, try to push back. Talking to your boss about the situation will give them a better understanding of your workload and could allow you to push back deadlines or receive some help with a task.

Keep Track

Keep a diary for a week or two to track which situations make you feel most stressed and how you respond to them. Record your thoughts and feelings and what you did as a result; this can help you find out what situations make you stressed and your reactions to it.

Talk About It

Voicing your concerns, worries or feelings to an attentive and trusted listener can feel very cathartic. The person you speak to doesn’t have to ‘fix’ things, just listen to you even if it doesn’t change the situation.