When Innovate Finance requested applications for its Women in Fintech Powerlist for 2020 there were over 1,000 submissions. Clearly, there’s plenty of talented women working in the industry and in the last few years more of them are starting to be recognised for what they do. However, at the very least the perception still exists that the financial sector – and by extension fintech – is something of a boys’ club.
After this year’s International Women’s Day theme of ‘Choose to Challenge’, people and businesses from all sectors reflected on the ways that we can help to create a level playing field for people of all genders. How we can push back against inequality and harmful gender stereotypes whenever we can.
While it’s great to see increased discussion around diversity and equity in the workplace, it’s important that action is being taken – and that it’s being taken in a way that benefits everyone. Having one day (like International Women’s Day) where we come together to promote equality and inclusivity doesn’t mean much if it isn’t followed up with meaningful steps to make it happen.
How can fintech be different?
This industry already has a reputation of challenging tradition. Fintechs are disruptors in the financial sector, and pride themselves on creating real change – and here is a chance to do just that by building a better industry at all levels. The fintech industry is no stranger to innovation and has a really exciting opportunity to be at the forefront of progress. If fintechs become world-leaders for their inclusivity then everyone else will have to catch up or risk losing out on the best talent available.
We are a young company in a young industry, and we believe that there’s no need to hold onto the old way of doing things if there is a new way that works better. For instance, it’s no longer necessary for fintechs to be based in London or to be capital-centric – remote working technology has revolutionised how we all do business, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fintech SMEs in other locations (like us in Newcastle) are able to build a more diverse, inclusive workforce from the ground up. As a small business scaling up, we are more agile and adaptable, which makes us less limited by legacy hiring policies and less likely to get stuck in a cycle of sideways hires from a restricted talent pool.
However, if this is our goal then we need to make sure we do it right. Encourage people to work together to remove the obstacles preventing all genders, races and those with disabilities from achieving their aims. Many of these obstacles are built from outdated attitudes and beliefs that we can all do our part to tackle. Collective action has always been the inspiration behind the biggest steps forward, and it will need to be the same here.
Supporting the creation of a diverse workplace is the responsibility of every employee, whether they are involved in the HR process or not. It doesn’t need to be about one person from the team setting out on a box-ticking exercise, it can be the whole team organically creating a more diverse, inclusive environment, right throughout the company. It’s not enough to simply provide token opportunities for those who might ordinarily be overlooked; businesses must strive to create an inclusive culture that will attract the best talent.
For businesses looking to encourage diversity, as well as promoting their own diversity programmes, they can choose to work with networks set up to uplift women, BAME and people with disabilities in the financial sector. Another option is to create mentorship programmes within a company which can help to support individuals who might not immediately feel at home.
For the wider industry, it’s time to become more approachable and welcoming. New talent could come from anywhere and from any background, and rightly so, so we need to take advantage of training or educational programmes for people who traditionally wouldn’t work in finance and look further afield for candidates for all roles.
The women of Kani
For Kani, our appointment of Melissa Beckett and Sophie Harbisher as our Chief Marketing Officer and Data Science Lead represented a huge moment in our growth. We were pleased to consolidate a successful 12 months by continuing to prioritise creating an inclusive and diverse team of employees and leadership, made up of the best talent available. Melissa’s experience in Sage software’s marketing team and of leading the NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator programme for the North, combined with an entrepreneurial mindset, in addition to Sophie’s work as a pHD research student at Newcastle University made them both the perfect people to help scale Kani and revolutionise reconciliation for businesses all over the world.
We also promoted Alina Ciocan to Head of Finance and Reconciliation, following the brilliant work she’s done for us in the first stages of our growth. She’s an expert on payments who has also been involved in training junior and apprenticeship-programme employees.
This month we also continue celebrating Alina as being named one of PaymentsSource and American Banker’s Most Influential Women in Payments: NEXT. The women on this list were selected due to their exceptional performance in the workplace and their leadership skills, and Alina is no exception.
At Kani, we’re proud to play our part in creating a more diverse, inclusive and welcoming work environment. Through combining our varying skills and strengths from different backgrounds, and working with local companies to support apprenticeship and skills-based programmes, we become stronger as a company and strive to make the fintech industry a thriving and exciting world to be in. Just as Kani is revolutionising data reconciliation, fintech can innovate and revolutionise workforces.