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Paving the Way: Lessons from the Innovate Finance Women in FinTech Initiative

“The more we talk about the issues that affect women in FinTech, the easier it becomes to instigate real change.”

Innovate Finance launched its Women in FinTech (WIF) initiative in October 2018, a programme of regular events with a mix of learning opportunities, community and awareness building, for our members and the wider FinTech ecosystem. 

Since the launch of the initiative, we’ve heard from some inspirational women at our popular ‘Power Hours’. In our regular webinar series, we’ve discussed issues such as future-proofing the FinTech talent pool, investing in women-led businesses and building a portfolio career. We’ve also offered workshops to our members to equip them with the practical skills to make progress in their careers.

Recently, we co-hosted a workshop with Augmentum Fintech at Seedrs HQ to gain feedback on how useful the WIF initiative has been so far and to discuss the key areas our members would like us to focus on in the coming months. We split into four groups, which looked at capital, talent, recruitment and networking.

Here are some of the takeaways from these groups:

Making Capital Fair 

Statistics for women in the FinTech sector remain bleak. Women represent just under a third of the total staff in the UK FinTech sector, but only 17% of these are at the executive level. Female founders are still struggling to raise capital with unconscious (or conscious!) bias against women-led organisations. Our 2018 Investment Landscape report showed that only 3% of the $1.7 billion of VC FinTech investment in the UK goes to firms with a female founder or co-founder. 

Our groups reflected on some of the wider challenges when seeking funding, including unbalanced access to capital in comparison to male counterparts (who were perceived to benefit from deep networks and an ‘old boy’s club’). 

Some attendees also pinpointed the disparity in levels of funding once women did get in front of VCs.  According to a recent report by Diversity VC and British Business Bank, for every £1 of investment in the UK, all-female founder teams get less than 1 pence. When looking at gender diversity within the VC community, women only accounted for 27% of the labour market.

Solutions suggested by our attendees included holding VCs accountable through the publication of a pay gender report. Other members suggested deeper cooperation between the numerous womens’ networks, both in the more traditional financial services ecosystem and within newer tech communities and technology platforms (such as Seedrs). Some of our members also stressed the importance of demystifying the skill sets required in tech, to allow investors to understand more complex FinTech propositions. 

Augmentum regularly run well-regarded Office Hours sessions, in which Founders can get 1:1 tailored feedback on their business, including female founders-only sessions. Find out more and register here.

Increasing The Transparency Of Talent and Recruitment 

The talent pipeline in FinTech was a key topic and is not only an issue that women are grappling with, although it is exacerbated when applying a gender lens. According to our Accessing a Global Talent Pool (2018) report, 76,500 people work in UK FinTech, which is set to grow to 105,500 by 2030. 

Our workshop attendees noted the increasing competition for digital and tech skills in the global talent race. Many reflected on the lack of information for overseas applicants around salaries and the lack of understanding around the right pay scale for different job positions. The workshop groups also discussed issues surrounding unconscious bias and diversity discrimination, including the unbalanced male to female ratios in certain job positions. 

Other points of the discussion centred on the need for more flexible working options in corporate environments and transparency around supporting visa sponsorship in job postings.

Solutions suggested for these challenges included the use of referral programmes that incentivise diverse pools of talent. Another suggestion included using anonymised CVs to minimise unconscious bias in the recruitment process.

Our members also suggested creating and using transparent pay scales on job sites which would showcase what international candidates could expect from a benefits package in the UK.  Some of our members suggested FinTechs begin to produce a voluntary gender pay gap report, regardless of their size. Current legislation in the UK only requires firms with over 250 employees to make this information public

Enabling Smarter Networking 

Attendees recognised the importance of networking, and the value it brings when climbing the career ladder and engaging in the FinTech space. Many highlighted they were time poor and often found themselves overwhelmed at bigger events. Some of our other attendees noted the static nature of certain networking events, which made things difficult for stronger connections to be formed. Others highlighted the need for tailored networking opportunities for working mothers and the lack of transparency when it came to the attendees of networking sessions.

Some of the suggested changes by our attendees included the introduction of ‘networking 101’ workshops which would encourage newcomers to hone their networking skills. Others suggested the introduction of buddy systems during networking events to boost transparency and give attendees a chance to connect with one another ahead of more formal networking engagements. Our attendees also stressed the importance of having flexible timing for networking, especially for mothers with younger children and those with complex work calendars. 

In Conclusion

Women are playing their part in shaping innovation in Financial Services and want more than just slogans to ensure FinTech does not repeat the same old mistakes.  Innovate Finance is busy planning more events for its WIF initiative over the next few months, including several workshops on negotiating a pay rise, a new webinar series and the launch of the application process for the 2019 Women in FinTech Powerlist. If you would like to discuss our diversity programme in more detail, or partner with us in the future, please email our team here.