Tackling the gender imbalance in the payments industry
When it comes to gender equality in the workplace, the financial services sector is regularly in the spotlight. Traditionally male-dominated, progress has been made in recent years to ensure women are encouraged to pursue a career in the financial services, backed by private and public initiatives like the Women in Finance Charter. This is promising, with more women taking on visible leadership roles.
Take the payments industry as an example. Over the last few years, the payments industry has been growing at an impressive rate, with a new generation of fintech startups building innovative payment solutions for merchants in both advanced and emerging markets. Yet when we look at gender, the fintech industry is made up of just 30% women. Additionally, data from Findexable found that only 1.5% of global fintech businesses are founded solely by women.
Having founded a fintech company in the payments sector, I am confident that we will see more women becoming part of this fast growth industry. While I may be in the minority, reflecting on my own experiences as a fintech founder offers useful advice and insight on what can be done to ensure that women are not discouraged from pursuing a fintech career. Afterall, there is an enormous talent pool here in the UK.
Reassessing the route to market
University has always been the traditional route into payments or finance-related roles. However, this seemingly conventional method of pursuing a career in finance is one of many entry paths available.
Towards the end of my school years, I had the choice of attending university or starting to work. I chose the latter. I was never particularly interested in sitting in lectures all day. Instead, I preferred the opportunity for hands-on experience and to learn in a practical way. I chose to do an apprenticeship with an accountancy firm, which then allowed me to do my AAT followed by my ACA.
Being in a work environment from the age of 18 taught me a lot of skills – the first was how to handle being thrown in at the deep end and thrive under pressure, which in turn solidified my sense of self-confidence. Compared to my university counterparts entering the corporate world for the first time at the age of around 21, the three years’ experience I had obtained meant I had not only developed the fundamental skills needed to do my job, but I was ahead of the curve career-wise.
Interestingly, when I have met other senior women in payments, many of them took similar routes into the industry, deciding to forgo university entirely. I am a strong advocate for learning while doing and jumping in head first. Showing young women what it is like to work in the payments industry, rather than hoping they chose a payments-related degree, could alter the career trajectories of many young females and bring more diverse talent to our industry.
The point here is that you shouldn’t limit yourself to one option, like university. There are plenty of creative opportunities available.
Looking toward an inclusive payments landscape
One of the biggest barriers for women entering our industry is the belief that the gender imbalance will hold them back, restricting their opportunities in some way. Businesses and organisations are under increasing pressure to improve their diversity and have rightfully invested significant resources into ensuring their working environments foster a supportive culture as a result. We must counter the narrative that historically male-dominated industries are not open to women.
I can offer some insight here. At 10 years old, I signed for Blackburn Rovers and continued to play for the ladies’ team until the age of 24. During that time, I watched the popularity of women’s football grow and the sport rightfully be given the respect it deserves - I’m hoping the same can happen for women in the payments industry.
Playing football taught me discipline, dedication and gave me a solid understanding that women should not be held back from doing what they love because an industry or organisation is traditionally geared towards men.
A focus on inclusion
Since founding global payments service provider Transact365 in 2017, I have never allowed my gender to hold me or my business back. And I’m proud to say that the company has continued to grow at an impressive rate. The number of clients we have is rising, and we now have offices in the UK and Singapore. While I may be an exception at the moment, I am optimistic that over the coming years, we will see a new generation of female entrepreneurs entering the fintech sector.
This is positive news, as it will ensure more women are in visible leadership positions. This focus on inclusion will also benefit the sector in the long-term. Afterall, research has shown that gender diversity promotes innovation and productivity by bringing different perspectives together.
The payments and broader fintech sectors have an exciting future, with the UK very much at the helm. For this reason, I encourage everyone to look at opportunities in this sector, regardless of age, gender or background.