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Article by Nabilah Hussain, Head of FinCrime

FinTech has a gender problem.

The findings of Innovate Finance’s report, that women still account for less than 30% of the UK’s FinTech workforce, are sadly all too believable. Unlike in other sectors, such as engineering, where gender equality figures are slowly, but surely, moving in the right direction, in finance and technology they have stayed stubbornly low.

Having worked both in traditional retail banking and at FinTechs – my current role is Head of FinCrime at 3S Money – I know the industry is driven by the desire to enact real change and grasp the opportunities new technologies present. But to achieve this vision we need diversity of thought. In 2019, the financial services sector contributed £132 billion to the UK economy, 6.9% of total economic output. Imagine how much the industry could grow if we canvassed insight, experience and expertise from every part of society.

We need more people from different backgrounds, races and genders at all levels to create a financial ecosystem that is fair and works for everyone. The question is how do we make this happen?

Overhaul recruitment

First impressions are everything. And this goes for both candidates and companies. From job descriptions to the interview process itself and Glassdoor reviews, there are a number of factors that have been shown to actively put women off applying for roles.

In job descriptions, neutral language is so important. “Creative” titles like ‘guru’ or ‘ninja’ have been shown to inadvertently put women off from clicking on job adverts. And in many cases bely unconscious bias in the overall recruitment process. Condensing the list of ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves’ is another way of ensuring as an industry we avoid the social conditioning pitfall that sees women only apply for roles if they meet 100% of the criteria; compared to men who apply when they meet 60%.

While FinTech is genuinely one of the most exciting industries to work in, companies still need to sell themselves to candidates – it goes both ways. With CRO Magazine reporting 86% of US women wouldn’t join a company with a bad reputation, having positive posts on the likes of Glassdoor isn’t a nice to have, it’s a necessity.

Put culture-add over culture-fit

At 3S Money, we genuinely walk the walk on being an inclusive workplace focused on innovation. Nearly two thirds (61%) of our team is female and I’m one of five female heads of department. Culture-add always comes above culture-fit because we recognise the value in having different experiences and opinions around the table. It makes for more interesting discussions! This attitude is baked into our DNA and helps ensure we don’t drive away strong female and neurodiverse candidates.

Aiming for culture-fit tends to attract and hire more of the same, which won’t help anything change for the better. As an industry, we need to focus on bringing in people who can add value we don’t already see in the sector. This has to be the case for every department in FinTech companies – from product to operations, and sales and marketing.

Lead by example

It’s easy to say you want to improve gender equality in the workforce. But it starts at the top. If people don’t see themselves reflected in those leading the FinTech sector or see CEOs taking tangible action to make gender equality a reality, nothing will change. It’s the responsibility of leaders to educate, and explain the importance of diverse teams and how everyone benefits from learning from each other.

Challenge yourself to monitor the number of female hires in the company each quarter and watch the changes within those teams over time. By holding companies and the industry as a whole to account, we will watch positive change follow.

Nabilah HussainAbout the author

Nabilah Hussain, Head of FinCrime at 3S Money, is an experienced Financial Crime, Risk and Compliance Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the banking industry.

Nabilah has a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Mathematics, Finance and Accounting from Queen Mary University and International AML Diploma from the ICA. Prior to 3S Money, Nabilah spent over 5 years at Metro Bank as its Risk & Compliance Manager, and BFC as Financial Crime Officer.