Women in fintech: Why fintechs need to match words with actions

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14th March, 2024 No Comments

Ellie Duncan is the author of ‘Open Banking and Financial Inclusion: Creating a Financial System That Provides Security and Equity’, published by Kogan Page.

International Women’s Day (IWD) may have been and gone, but if my LinkedIn homepage is anything to go by, in the build-up and on the day itself, there seemed to be a growing frustration – even exasperation – that recognition of women’s achievements and progress remain confined to one day out of 365.

Many of the IWD-related posts on my LinkedIn timeline challenged the financial services industry and the fintech sector to do more than simply cheer on the women in their organisations and their personal lives. 

After all, research by EY and Innovate Finance published last year found that lack of industry recognition for their contribution was cited by top female leaders in UK fintech as one of the main challenges they faced in their career progression.

This year, there was a distinct call for actions to match words – pay women the same as men, was one such demand. According to the EY Women in Fintech Report 2023, the UK’s tech industry has a gender pay gap of 27%, while in financial services the gap is 26%. EY’s analysis puts the gender pay gap in the fintech sector at an estimated 22%.

Other calls to action around IWD highlighted the need for companies to offer the kind of working conditions that mean women can not only enter but remain in the workforce, and for organisations to continue to raise the profiles of the females in their organisations year-round, by putting them forward for speaking opportunities on panels and podcasts, for example.

The mounting frustration expressed in so many social posts marking IWD this year seems borne out of the knowledge that, despite the efforts of so many, women remain underrepresented. And that means, ultimately, that financial institutions – whether those are incumbents or fintechs – are potentially failing to address the needs of a not insignificant customer segment.

Women own an increasing share of the world’s wealth, in part due to their growing participation in the workforce and also as a result of the transfer of wealth that is under way. One-third of global wealth is now under the control of women – and this is rising, with women adding $5 trillion to the “wealth pool” globally every year, according to Boston Consulting Group

So, this needs to be reflected in the type of financial services and products available. Financial institutions would be wrong to work on the assumption that the same products appeal to and work for women as they do for men.

Consider that more women worldwide are affected by financial exclusion than men, with women more likely to be unbanked. The World Bank’s Global Findex Database 2021 estimated it at 740 million women globally without a bank account.

This means that many of the financial products being designed today are based on how men have historically earned, spent, and invested their money. It’s no wonder, then, that women are 26.6% less likely than men to use the products and services being offered by fintechs, as reported by the Financial Alliance for Women’s ‘How Fintechs Can Capture the Female Economy’.

Many of those same fintechs are taking what the Financial Alliance for Women called a “gender-neutral approach to doing business” across product development, sales and marketing. 

I explore this in more depth in my book, ‘Open Banking and Financial Inclusion: Creating a Financial System That Provides Security and Equity’, which highlights some of the use cases that are taking a more gender intelligent approach – and reaping the rewards of that.

Of course, many fintechs in the UK are employing women in product design and development roles, and some even have a 50/50 gender split in the workforce. But while these organisations are the exceptions and not the rule, there is still more work to be done.

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