There is no doubt that technology is impacting every facet of our lives. From communication to health and wellness, education to banking, technological innovations are advancing our quality of life. But while these developments are introducing higher levels of convenience and greater access to information, most of them lack the perspective of half of our population.
According to the National Science Foundation, women make up 28% of all computer science and engineering STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) roles, and that statistic is even more underwhelming when the focus turns to a market that is, historically, male-dominated. In the fintech industry, women represent only 30% of the entire workforce, but does that come as a surprise when both markets – Financial Services and Technology – have a long-standing tradition of gender bias?
Diversity fuels creativity by lending different perspectives on current issues. Women help make products useful to a broader audience, and as a direct result, allow companies to identify larger opportunities and develop more holistic solutions. In terms of cognitive abilities, many studies conclude that women function at the same level as men. According to psychologists at the University of Glasgow, University of California – Irvine and University of Missouri, when gender bias is not introduced in mathematical evaluations, women score equally as high as men. Another study, conducted by psychologist Elizabeth Spelke P.hD. at Harvard University, reviews 111 previous studies and concludes that while cognitive approaches differ across genders, men and women possess an equal aptitude for math and science. Not only do women reflect a large percentage of a user base and possess an equivalent ability to think logically, we bring a unique set of tools to the table. Social adeptness, emotional intelligence, and empathy are skills that fill gaps introduced through organizational imbalances. They facilitate a higher degree of collaboration and enrich product development, which in turn enables project completion through a heightened level of human interaction in addition to the expected technical accomplishments.
While there is no shortage of highly capable, intelligent and ambitious women, there is only a small percentage of them that are working in STEM T&E (and I don’t mean Travel and Expense) roles within the fintech industry. The barriers seem to far outweigh any prospects of advancement. Issues with relatability and perception drive most women away: I don’t identify with a masculine team, I have competing priorities and am not as dedicated as my male counterparts, I lack knowledge of the industry. Fear and a struggle with self-confidence governs these thoughts and the ultimate decision to dissociate with these roles in the workforce. Separate from the issues stemming from cultural and social influences lies a self-perpetuating one – the lack of female leadership. Without appropriate role models and mentors, women don’t see a clear path for professional development and therefore aren’t empowered to enter the industry and contribute new ideas, something the fintech space so desperately needs.
If we know that talent is integral to the growth of a company, might an organization gain that competitive edge by adjusting its hiring practices and modifying how it envisions its technologists? Challenging the status quo will require effort by both parties – companies acknowledging the presence of bias and recognizing social skills and self-awareness are invaluable in technical leadership and women facing and overcoming their seemingly inherent internal obstacles. Until the composition of the fintech industry changes, innovation will continue to be impacted.
By Samantha Fisher, VP of Development, Itemize
Samantha Fisher leads the application development team in architecting robust and scalable solutions. Samantha focuses on increasing developer productivity, accelerating development cycles, and delivering pragmatic software.
Kizzi Nkwocha is the editor of Business Game Changer Magazine and publisher of The UK Newspaper, Money and Finance Magazine, the net’s fastest growing wealth creation publication. Kizzi Nkwocha is chair of The Ethical Publishers Association and co-chair of The Logistics Association. Kizzi made his mark in the UK as a publicist, journalist and social media pioneer. As a widely respected and successful media consultant he has represented a diverse range of clients including the King of Uganda, and Amnesty International. Nkwocha has also become a well-known personality on both radio and television. He has been the focus of a Channel 4 documentary on publicity and has hosted his own talk show, London Line, on Sky TV. He has also produced and presented both radio and TV shows in Cyprus and Spain.