Why are there not Enough Women in Fintech?
As part of Wirex’s “Women In Crypto’ campaign, I was asked to write an article on what it means to actually be a woman in the crypto industry and what can be done to increase diversity. I am a very proud member of the crypto community, and I am more than certain that with the right mindset and action steps, we can balance the male-to-female workforce ratio of the crypto industry in our lifetimes. We’ve come a long way, but we must bolster our efforts.
The current landscape of fintech and the plethora of information available confirms this gender imbalance within the industry. A study from Deloitte revealed that less than 30% of the UK’s Fintech workforce is female. What’s worse, the study also revealed that only 17% of senior Fintech roles are held by women and only 14% are represented on Fintech boards. This disparity perhaps stems from the historic lack of senior women leaders within the industry, meaning there are fewer female success stories women can turn to in search of inspiration and motivation. An example of this being that there are a total of only six female founders across all Fintech 50 companies compared to 118 male founders.
Whilst this imbalance is still very much prevalent in the crypto industry, it is improving every year. In 2018, the Financial Times reported that 75% of Uphold users, an online crypto wallet, were men. Elsewhere, Coin Dance, another bitcoin company, noted that only 5.7% of its investors were women. But fast forward to 2020, crypto exchanges are reporting up to a 160% surge in female crypto investors, with Bitcoin operator Grayscale boasting 43% of its users as female.
Many people will believe that women don’t work in crypto or financial services due to lack of interest, or that women are simply better suited to roles that involve more human interaction and fewer numbers. When actually, this is contrary to popular belief in the past. You may be interested to hear that in the 1950’s and ‘60s, it was actually believed that women were more suited towards computer programming than men, with the very first computer programmers actually being women. This legacy left by our predecessors can still be seen in many countries today, with women making up 42% of India’s computer science undergraduate students and it’s reported that 50% to 60% of Malaysia's computer industry workforce is made up of women.
This is all to say that the catalyst of this imbalance does not lie in our biology, but in the culture historically rife within crypto. If India and Malaysia can get close to half of their computer science employees to be women, so can the rest of the world. The first steps to accomplishing this are clear - changing the narrative, adjusting our mindset and championing the current female success stories in crypto. The ball is in our court.
My Background in Fintech
I got into crypto per chance, by participating in the Payments Race, a very fun challenge that involves travelling from Toronto to Las Vegas using only one payment method (here’s my video). The first Payments race didn’t have any female racers, so I got in touch with Ali Paterson and volunteered to participate. I asked Ali to make me use the most difficult payments method, and he suggested Bitcoin. And just like that, I started a career in cryptocurrency!
Since then, I have worked with a range of start-ups and established tech and crypto companies helping them promote their products as well as encourage mass adoption of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. I believe in raising awareness amongst the younger generations, and regularly give talks at universities and secondary schools. Just next month I’m going to a school where I’ll be discussing the doors that blockchain technology opens and how cryptocurrencies can help solve the inefficiencies in our current financial system.
Why we Need More Women
The main business reason women are essential in the world of crypto is because without women, you are essentially excluding half of your customers. Women drive 80% of consumer purchases and also tend to have more empathy, which is more than essential when trying to understand what problems your potential customers have. Having women on your team means you can cater to a larger customer base more effectively, which further translates into more sales, lower risks and better business outcomes.
Another commercial reason for increased diversity is that diverse teams offer better results. That’s usually because a diverse team offers a wider array of perspectives, and can better represent a company’s customer base. A diverse team forces a crypto company to look at broader perspectives and be more open to collaboration; a key part of our constantly evolving API and Banking-as-a-Service ecosystem.
But honestly, the main reason we need more women is because: why not? In the West, we’ve become accustomed to the idea that women aren’t well suited to financial services, technology or the crypto world - but it’s clear this is not the case. If women were the first ever programmers and software engineers, why can’t we occupy leadership positions in crypto and financial services companies? If half of the IT workforce in Malaysia is female, why can’t we see that in the UK? We shouldn’t let stereotypes and cultural upbringing get in the way of diversity.
Women are people, not a different species with significantly different needs, and everyone wants a career that is fulfilling, rewarding and interesting. Sure, men and women are different, but let’s not forget we are all cut from the same cloth.
What we can do to Increase Diversity
I believe the main reason there is a lack of women in the Fintech and crypto spaces is due to culture. So what can we do to overcome our cultural biases and encourage more women to join the industry?
Celebrate role models: You’ve heard it before. Role models are an essential part of the equation. Having women already in the space to look up to is one of the best ways to encourage young girls and students to explore the opportunities the industry can offer. My inspiration was Amelia Mary Earhart, an American aviation pioneer and author. She was the first woman to cross the Atlantic, and I love her quote:
“Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.”
Including more role models in books, getting female leaders to give talks and celebrating high-achieving women in movies and newspapers are some of the ways we can create role models for the younger generation.
Encourage a more family-friendly workplace: Thanks to Covid-19 and the lockdown that came with it, many well-meaning husbands and dads now understand how difficult it is to take care of children while working. Not only that, but many employers are realising that working from home isn’t catastrophic for productivity. These are things that are working in women’s favour and will help turn the tide towards more family-friendly policies such as longer maternity leave, work-from-home days and flexible hours.
Offer specific programmes in schools: As someone who regularly goes into schools and universities, I know how important it is to inspire and educate the younger generation. By offering programmes targeted specifically at girls and students, we can not only help boost their practical skills but also give them the confidence that they can become leaders too.
Shift the culture: Make it less of a “boys’ club” and more of a diverse workplace. Host conferences in appropriate places that are welcoming for everyone (some may remember the Bitcoin conference hosted in an American strip club!). Encourage more female speakers to take up places on conference panels, and work on uncovering any unconscious biases employers may have towards female employees. Instead of just raising awareness, let’s actually take action on including more women in the workplace. Remember, bringing about this much needed change is not the responsibility of a select few, we must empower each other, male and female, to do our bit in shaping the world of tomorrow.
As both men and women, it’s our responsibility to stick together, encourage each other and offer each other opportunities. I entered the world of crypto and haven’t looked back because I find this industry genuinely interesting, adaptive and every day brings something new. I’m a big optimist and I'm confident that by believing there is a place for women in our industry and taking the necessary actions, we can establish 50-50 workforces and boardrooms in the crypto world.
Written by Amelie Arras, Marketing, PR & Communication Consultant, Flytiful