Fintech featured

Women in fintech: a personal view on resetting the imbalance

Barbara Rossato, Regional Head of Professional Services, Finantix

FintechThe world of banking has been notoriously male dominated, but the new and flourishing 21st Century world of fintech creates an ideal opportunity for women to work in the banking sector on an equal footing with men.

Yet a 2019 study of the UK fintech sector by EY   found a gender split of 70.5% male and 29.5% female. It also found that just 25% of fintechs had at least one female founder, and only a very disappointing 2% had a female only founder or female co-founders.

So we still have a mountain to climb to reach gender equality in fintech. There isn’t just one route up this mountain and I think we (that’s we in the fintech sector, all of us, men and women), need to take existing paths and create new ones. I think there’s a lot we need to do to encourage girls to take up STEM subjects at school. That’s well documented of course, and in Italy, where I live and work, there are initiatives to encourage girls into STEM topics just as there are in the UK.

It is really important to foster the women who come into an organisation. One aspect of that is to ensure there are plenty of women in senior positions – having someone who ‘looks like me’ at the top is inspiring. At Finantix, we have a female CEO Christine Ciriani, but in this Finantix is rare.

However, board level representation isn’t the only way to encourage and support women in fintech. Mentoring is also very important and it is a key part of many people’s roles at Finantix. I’ve mentored both women and men, and I’ve seen and heard about mentoring in other organisations. Some approaches are less helpful to the mentee than others. For example a teacherly approach, where the mentee listens and the mentor provides information is less productive than a collaborative approach, where the mentee’s aims and aspirations are talked through, possibilities discussed, and strategies worked out. I take the collaborative approach, and I’ve found I’ve learned from my mentees in the past. I see that as very positive for both mentor and mentee.

Once we have women in the organisation we need to ensure they have space to flourish. Perhaps part of that is redefining success – or taking a fresh look at what it means to do a job well. I’ve been used to getting up at 4am to jump on a plane to get to a meeting in another world city, and then return home late at night – with just a day’s notice beforehand.  Anyone, woman or man, can have reasons why that kind of working style isn’t viable for them. But they might have other skills that are just as important and just as useful to the company. We need to open our minds to new possibilities and new definitions of success so that we don’t miss out on real talent.

Getting more women to take up technical roles is important, but there are plenty of roles in fintech that don’t require programming or other technical skills. I have worked for Finantix for almost ten years and have during that time had developer and technical lead roles. Today my role as Regional Head of Professional Services (Europe and Americas) is removed from development, and I work more closely with clients on project management and client relations. Both roles are rewarding, and there are opportunities to do both throughout the fintech sector.

I think what really matters if we are serious about growing the number of women in fintech is to work across the whole range of strategies – and for everyone in an organisation to fully embrace the need to equalise the gender split. This isn’t a ‘woman thing’, it’s an organisational thing.

About the author

Barbara Rossato is Regional Head of Professional Services (Europe and Americas) at fintech firm Finantix, where she has worked for almost 10 years covering various developer and technical lead roles. She is based in Venice, Italy and is currently responsible for the projects and clients management, actively contributing to building the relationship and coaching the project management team.

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female leader, women leading the way featured

Addressing the imbalance, how can we get more female-led startups funded?

female leader, women leading the way

While the UK is leading the way in the startup and tech world, the under-representation of women is even more marked in this sector of the economy than others.

Research from the British Business Bank shows that all female founding startup teams get just 1p for every £1 of investment.

We would all benefit from having more female entrepreneurs and business founders. It’s not just about doing the right thing morally, important as it is. Recent research from the Boston Consulting Group found that diverse teams produce 19% more revenue. Diageo has been ranked 1st in the UK in Equileap’s Gender Equality Ranking. It has also been rated one of the most dynamic companies in polls by competitors, while seeing impressive profitability. So we can all agree having more women making decisions makes great commercial sense.

Therefore it is vital to get seed funding to women in the most dynamic part of the economy - the startup sector. In supporting more female-led businesses we can create more role models and provide a pathway for others to follow. Here are four steps that need to be taken to start to change the picture.

  1. Develop networking: The oldest cliche in business is it’s not about what you know, it's about who you know. It’s a truism that has actively disadvantaged women, with men having more networks to tap into than women. It starts with education, boys’ schools have a lot more old networks than girls’ schools, and this is reinforced throughout our lives. Women need to build their own networks to redress the balance. The great news is that there are more organisations than ever dedicated to addressing this with opportunities to meet like-minded and connected people who can take your business idea to the next level. It is something my organisation SeedTribe is actively looking to do in showcasing a curated list of the best events for people involved in working in, or wanting to support, impactful start-ups.
  2. Attract more female investors: One of the biggest challenges for women looking for funding is the lack of women as investors. Angel investment is the lifeblood of early stage start-ups and a greater flow of capital into female start-ups at this stage would have a game-changing impact. However the investor community on Angel Investment Network in the UK has less than 10% women and is something we are determined to change. Although men can back female businesses, the evidence shows women investors will have an added insight and empathy for businesses led by women. If we look at products designed around financial inclusion, they will bring a fresh perspective on how women may think about investment compared to men, and so enable access to the largest under-served market in the world: women. This includes products like Tumelo, SmartPurse or Bippit. It’s not just financial investment. Finding the right female angel who has led a business themselves, who can help support, advise and back your business can be invaluable.
  3. Be more confident in pitching There are a number of tweaks women can make to their pitch, in order to increase their chances of investment. Sometimes it's just a question of being bold and putting ourselves in the shoes of the listener. Learning to switch perspective to put the most pertinent argument forward is one of the simple steps we can do to increase our chances of investment if fundraising for a start-up. My experience of launching my old start-up GrubClub was critical in helping me understand how important it is to think of different angles, adapting my pitch according to the investor I was speaking to, so I would research each investor carefully and highlight a different reason for them to invest, based on their background and interests - while always making sure I was staying true to the soul and values of GrubClub. It's important to be flexible and open to other approaches, but never to the detriment of what is fundamental to your company.
  4. Give other women a hand up I’m a big believer in paying it forward. Women can challenge an entrenched system by ensuring they offer a hand up to other women who are looking to develop their own business. Having launched and sold my own business, I dedicate my time to supporting impactful entrepreneurs to grow in more holistic, sustainable ways. This involves not just fundraising but also opportunities to connect with professionals who can collaborate with them to help them grow along the way. The individual power we all have is immense and far greater than we perhaps realise. Let’s use it meaningfully.

Olivia SibonyAbout the author

Liv is an award-winning entrepreneur (Awarded Top 10 UK Women Entrepreneurs 2019 -- Wise100 Top Women in Social Business) and trailblazing ethical investment champion who left a career at Goldman Sachs to launch her foodtech startup, GrubClub, which she sold to Eatwith in 2017. She joined Angel Investment Network (having raised money for Grub Club through them) to launch and grow SeedTribe, a spinoff platform focused specifically on connecting “impactful” businesses with investors.

Most recently she has launched a 'Female Founders' community on the platform to champion female start ups and encourage female investors. This was in response to discovering just 10% of investors on the AIN platform are women, something she is determined to change.She is also a Board member of UCL's Fast Forward 2030, which aims to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs to launch businesses that address the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).