Article by Felicity Blake, Country Manager, New Zealand, ACI Worldwide

Woman typing on laptop, flexible working, gender biasOver the last decade the number of students keen to progress careers in technology across the globe has been dwindling, at the same time as technology’s role in our everyday lives has been increasing.

There is a dearth of females in tech leadership positions with only 18.1 percent of such roles in North America held by women and closer to 12 percent around the rest of the world. At tech startups there’s a significant lack of gender parity – only 56 percent of start-ups have at least one woman in an executive position, and just 40 percent have one or more women on the board of directors.

There are several reasons for this. Unequal opportunities for women, issues related to gender bias, lack of information, incentives and even misconceptions about technical careers cause girls and teenagers to abandon the idea of becoming part of the technology industry at an early age.

We also see many women at some point in their lives taking on up to four simultaneous jobs/roles: professionals, wives, mothers and homemakers. Often, that is the breaking point when women begin to doubt… and re-assess which of those roles they can really devote 100 percent of their time and efforts towards. Twenty years ago, the industry was not ready to provide these women with the necessary conditions to fulfil all areas, personally and professionally, but this is changing.

Driving greater gender diversity should be a priority for our industry, and this should start at school by encouraging young girls to take STEM subjects. STEM education provides the basic tools for critical thinking, which is key to delivering innovation. Businesses in the financial and technology industries should be talking to students about the types of roles that we can offer, highlighting the opportunities that a career in payments and technology can provide. In addition to the more technical roles for which the industry is well known, such as those that use coding and engineering practices, there are a range of business roles which wouldn’t necessarily be thought of as a career option for non-technical people. As an example, there are roles focussed on finding solutions to meet business pain points and delivering great customer experiences, as well as roles around delivering those solutions, which tend to be more people management oriented. We need to create that spark in young women now, to deliver the pipeline for diversity in the future. A great example of this is ACI’s annual Coding for Girls Camp, which takes place in the UK and in locations around the world, introducing girls age 10 to 13 to the world of technology and potential STEM careers.

Advice for young women looking to make it in the industry

I believe this is a great time for women in payments. Organisations across the industry are looking at how to challenge the status quo and provide frictionless payment services, helping to drive real-time adoption and most importantly increase financial inclusion. There is a strong recognition of the need to build diverse teams to support the conversations that are needed to truly spark this innovation.

It is no secret that women are under-represented in fintech, and there’s a real opportunity for women to bring the ‘female’ mindset and experience to payments. It is important that we contribute our unique perspective in product development – and how we lead our companies to better serve female end-users.

My advice to young women entering payments is to seek out mentorship from those within the industry. A mentor can provide honest guidance on how to approach challenges, identify and strengthen areas requiring development. They can also act as a support system when confidence is lacking.

Authenticity is also key. I would encourage women to remain true to who they are. This allows them to bring their best to the table. And while they’re at the table, they shouldn’t forget to ‘lean in’ and make their contribution and voice heard.

Felicity Blake HeadshotAbout the author

Felicity is responsible for ACI’s entire New Zealand client portfolio, which includes many of the country’s largest financial institutions. She focuses on developing deep relationships and strategic partnerships in the highly complex and competitive environment of payments technology. Felicity is also accountable for ensuring alignment for successful implementations, and support between cross-functional teams at ACI, in order to deliver exceptional outcomes for customers.