Online banking businessman using smartphone with credit card Fintech and Blockchain concept

Why and how: increasing female representation in FinTech

Online banking businessman using smartphone with credit card Fintech and Blockchain concept

Article by Yasmin Johal, Associate, CMS

The FinTech industry creates and delivers highly innovative and disruptive technologies that seek to alter the landscape of various traditional financial sectors, such as payment services, trading and lending platforms.

FinTech is by nature forward facing, employing the use of pioneering technologies and software-based solutions to provide unique and accessible solutions to all. Whilst technology relies on empirical and data driven science, it is not necessarily the case that it therefore produces products that are free of human bias and error. In fact, human biases are coded into technology every day. This can occur not through deliberate and conscious decision-making, but most commonly through a lack of representation of society, for example women. To produce products that work for all, and represent gender differences, it is imperative that women are included in the creative process across all levels, from consumer data collection to senior management.

It has also been commonly acknowledged that increased diversity in business settings results in better financial outcomes and productivity. It is for this reason that McKinsey labelled gender inequality as a “critical economic challenge”. Companies that do not invest in the development and promotion of female talent simply lose out. A range of perspectives and life experiences is crucial in capturing wide and diverse consumer markets – something which all FinTech companies should aspire to do. Firms with diverse and inclusive boards and management teams make better and more informed decisions, drive innovative solutions, and outperform their competitors.

A more obvious point as to why we need increased representation of women in FinTech, is that women make up half of the world’s population and are therefore a huge consumer market. More than that, women are typically more likely than men to be responsible for household financial management and control of dispensable income. This provides only a glimpse into the potential of the economic power of women. Despite this, women are less likely than men to use FinTech products. The inclusion of women in FinTech across all levels therefore could go a long way in increasing the marketability and appeal of FinTech products.

Some of the most significant barriers to increasing female representation in FinTech include:

  • balancing childcare and family demands with work;
  • accessing funding – at every stage, female-led businesses receive less funding than male-led businesses;
  • access to professional networks in the industry; and
  • a lack of self-belief – 1 in 6 women believe they lack the necessary skills and knowledge.

Combatting these barriers to entry demands a multifaceted approach, one element of which is to encourage women and girls into tech and STEM fields and to promote the development of coding and data skills. Despite slight increases over the last few years, the number of women in STEM remains pitifully low. Whilst it is important to highlight that a STEM background is not necessary to enter FinTech, guiding women into STEM careers is a vital part of the journey.

Innovation combined with a consumer-centric mindset is also crucial to increasing female engagement with FinTech. It is important for FinTech firms to really make an effort to analyse gender-disaggregated data, speak to women, and identify ways in which they can design solutions that not only disrupt traditional markets, but that are also marketable and desirable to women. Creating and building products that advance the way in which women contribute to and access financial services is imperative to improving the gender disparity in FinTech.

Finally, the importance of firm culture and inclusivity cannot be overstated. Diversity and inclusion should be on every FinTech firm’s agenda and be afforded priority. Whilst many FinTech firms may be in relatively infant stages compared to the more traditional financial services companies, it is crucial for FinTech firms to seek to pro-actively lead the change from the outset through inclusive internal policies and practices.  This can be achieved through the adoption of hybrid and flexible working, zero tolerance of sexual harassment and sexism, and inclusive recruitment practices. Role models, education, networking and showcasing talent are just a few things that can help encourage more women in tech. We need to amplify the profiles of successful women to encourage the next generation of women in FinTech.

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.


Yasmin Johal

TechWomen100: What happened next for Yasmin Johal

Yasmin JohalIn this ongoing series, we speak to our winners about life after winning a TechWomen100 Award.

Now in their fifth year, the TechWomen100 Awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of women in tech – the emerging tech talent and role models for the future.

We spoke with Yasmin Johal, who won a TechWomen100 Award in 2020.

Yasmin Johal is an Associate at CMS UK specialising in FinTech and sits in the Financial Services Regulation team. She provides advice and helps shape developments in the fintech industry internationally. She is a committee member of the CMS equIP accelerator programme – designed to nurture the development of tech start-ups across the world. She is also a founding member of both the CMS #Leadhers & BAME founders campaigns, which help increase female & BAME diversity within the tech industry. Yasmin sits on the committee of the BAME Network and Inclusions Mental Health & Wellbeing Network which help foster diversity & inclusion across CMS globally. She is a tech speaker, podcast host and an advocate for increasing female & BAME representation in fintech. She has also authored industry thought leadership pieces on financial regulation, FinTech & innovation. Yasmin was named as one of the Top 35 Women in FinTech worldwide recognised as a Standout 35 Star in the Women in FinTech Powerlist 2020. She was also named as one of WeAreTechWomen’s Top 100 Women in Technology and was a TechWomen100 2020 Award Winner.

How did you feel when it was announced that you’d won a TechWomen100 award?

I was delighted to have won the award and be selected amongst such amazing role models within the tech sector. For me, it really shows the diversity of the tech sphere and also that tech is an industry and a wider ecosystem, and I am excited to be  involved in that ecosystem and be making a contribution in the tech sector.

Please tell us what has happened in your career since winning the TechWomen100 award?

Since the award I was humbled to have been recongised as one of the Top 35 Women in FinTech worldwide recognised as a “Standout 35 Star in the Women in FinTech Powerlist 2020” with Innovate Finance, being commended for my involvement and advancement of the fintech sector. I have also had various speaking engagements, having been a panellist for the One Tech World conference with WATW, speaking with Cajigo regarding Women in Fintech and also speaking at various events regarding diversity within fintech. In addition to this, I have featured in numerous blogs and thought leadership pieces where I have discussed the importance of diverse representation within the fintech ecosystem and have been recognised as an “exceptional female role model”. In my professional capacity, I continue to work with broadsheets and industry bodies to help advance fintech tools and resources for all players within the fintech sphere.

What advice would you give to someone else going through the award’s process?

Network with everyone else that is involved in the award process, you can make so many acquaintances, allies and friends this way!

What tips would you give to our other members to enhance their careers? 

Find your support network, these are the people that will champion your success.


Discover what happened next for some of our other TechWomen100 winners:

Kulvinder Panesar“I leveraged this award with further a role of a Speaker Manager alongside my current AITN ambassadorship at AiTechNorth.   My role was to enable a dialogue with potential speakers who were business leaders, senior executives, and technologists, and to discuss their talks to find an amicable for the AI Summit Theme.  I have further hosted an AI Tech North – innovation exchange fringe event – AI for Business with two renowned experts on Thursday 18th June.  I feel my personal brand is developing as an academic delivering AI courses, pursuing my conversational AI research and widening my knowledge of the AI space.  My AI tech North activities I feel have enriched my academic delivery.”

Kulvinder Panesar, TechWomen100 Winner 2019

Lisa Ventura“I was in total shock when it was announced that I had won a TechWomen100 award, I couldn’t believe it! I was so honoured to win this award and to be alongside so many other amazing women in the technology industry. It was a dream come true! I was so very sorry not to be able to make the ceremony and meet everyone, my father was in ill health at the time and I couldn’t leave him – I so wish I could have been there to meet all the other amazing and inspiring women who won a TechWomen100 award.”

Lisa Ventura, TechWomen100 Winner 2019

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Nominations are now open

The TechWomen100 awards are the first of their kind to focus solely on the female tech talent pipeline and recognise the impact of champions, companies and networks that are leading the way. Nominations are now open until 10 September 2021.

CAST YOUR NOMINATIONS

Yasmin Johal

Yasmin Johal | CMS

I am a Financial Services Regulatory Associate, specialising in FinTech at CMS London.

I have extensive experience advising FinTech firms (ranging from start-ups to more established organisations), as well as domestic and international investors in the FinTech industry, on a range of complex UK and EU regulatory issues.

I have a wealth of industry experience across the UK and US markets, having:

• undertaken a secondment to a leading global professional services firm working within their fiduciary management business.
• acted as one of three business leads for HSBC North America’s (Private Bank) Global Standards project under the Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the US Department of Justice, focusing on implementing technological innovation in change and transformation to enhance the client onboarding processes in North America and the Americas (from a business perspective).
• worked in Barclays’ corporate compliance team, advising on compliance risk and enhancing the banks New Product Approval process through the use of software and programmes.
• supported Morgan Stanley’s investment banking team across all aspects of legal and compliance, and leading a project which looked at the use of high-frequency trading and deployment of algorithms in the bank’s products.

I have always had an interest in technology, and its deployment within financial services, from both an incumbent and FinTech perspective. I have taken the lead on large global projects which have revamped traditional financial services and embraced technology through the use of programming, coding and algorithms, in enhancing both business-facing and client-facing offerings.

I am a member of the equIP accelerator programme (at CMS) which is one of the world’s prominent start-up legal incubators and a founding member of the CMS equIP #LeadHers campaign, which focuses on supporting female founded Tech start-ups. I am also an active member of the FinTech, InsurTech and Blockchain Associates groups at CMS, helping contribute to thought leadership, participating in industry events and being a pivotal point of contact for clients on areas of my specialism, all of which has helped champion female-founded Tech start-ups.